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Latino Theater Company Presents Award-Winning Trilogy: ‘Faith’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Charity’

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A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story, a multi-award winning work by Evelina Fernández is fiercely ambitious, thoroughly and intelligently mounted on a slick two tiered set by Francois-Pierre Couture, artistically lit by Pablo Santiago, surfeit of great singing and talented actors such as Robert Beltran, Sal Lopez and Ella Saldaňa North and no doubt will be a huge hit with the home team crowd.

But underneath all the sizzle and steam it’s hard to find any meat in the skillet.

With a running time of six hours the play is being presented on two separate nights or for those with the stamina as a single presentation with dinner break.

Lucy Rodriguez and Evelina Fernández in 'A Mexican Trilogy'

Lucy Rodriguez and Evelina Fernández (Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography)

The trilogy breaks down into:

Faith, Jerome, Arizona 1915, 1940-1944.

Hope, Phoenix, Arizona 1960-1963.

Charity, Los Angeles, California 2005

The most solid writing is in the last installment, Charity.

The problem for me begins with the avalanche of characters we’re introduced to at the very start. Rather than layering them on, Fernández (who plays Grandmother, Lupe, Mari, Gina over the three segments) masses them on stage too quickly for any identification or commitment to develop on behalf of the audience.

The problem continues with the second offering, Hope, as actors now shift into the children or grandchildren of this sister or that sister.

A Mexican Trilogy (Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography)

Lucy Rodriguez and Sal Lopez (Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography)

The closing segment, Charity, presents less difficulty primarily because the characters from Hope are carried over giving us a continuity of personalities only with different actors now playing the characters’ older selves.

Music runs throughout the three pieces, songs from the periods (for the most part) are given solid staging by the cast and provide a counterpoint to the business on stage and are perhaps the saving grace of the show.

Fernández’s problem is not that she has nothing dramatic to give, but too much.

There are a multitude of motifs, story lines and characters working against each other.

“The women of this family cannot lie. It is our curse.” We hear this sporadically, yet never see it deeply entwined into the narrative.

Then there is the author’s message about the investment of self worth –

“You are the result of a choice or – “ or something like that, I can’t remember the rest, which is funny because it was repeated ad nausea without much point, and it was that repetition that pushed it out of my consciousness.

As a panorama I found the piece wanting.

Too little real history (okay, a personal peeve) other than a toss away remark about one of the brothers riding with Zapata.

Characters vanish with story lines in tow, and never did the piece take a stand as to what it proposes to be:

The Thornbirds
Roots
Grease
Our Town
Pennies From Heaven (the British series!)
Peyton Place

A Mexican Trilogy (Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography)

Sal Lopez, Sam Golzari, Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez, Julio Macias (Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography)

The cast and crew are up to any challenge thrown at them however, with the best work being done in the closing third of the piece.

Geoffrey Rivas in Hope menaces as the abusive Charlie, then charms us in Charity as the hair dresser Bobby, the young son played by Kenneth Miles Ellington Lopez (yes, that’s one actor) who he had bullied as Charlie in Hope.

As the star-crossed lovers in Hope, one of the more compact story lines, Ella Saldaňa North and Sal Lopez are effective and moving, Lopez is less so in Charity when he has to stand around as the ghost of a dead priest.

In Hope Olivia Cristina Delgado brings some lightness to the work’s tone, and in Charity North again has moments as the floozy older Betty, though the switch in performers was more confusing than necessary.

In Charity Fernández has her best moments opposite Robert Beltran displaying the same commitment to his craft that made his Hamlet a number of years back such a pleasure to watch.

Tickets for the production are offered for first half, second half and full trilogy.

The First Half takes us from the Mexican Revolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Second Half from the Kennedy assassination to the death of Pope John Paul I.

If under a time or budget constraint, I’d suggest the Second Half, comprising all of the play Charity, which was the first written, and is for my money the most grounded of the works, the other two feeling like weak appendages to me.

Now despite all my nits and picks, the audience I sat with was wildly enthusiastic.

Even my lovely wife Marlene (nee Gutierrez) found the show moving, though also over long and somewhat confusing.

Robert Beltran and Xavi Moreno in A Mexican Trilogy

Robert Beltran and Xavi Moreno (Photo by Grettel Cortes Photography)

So here’s the deal –

A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story is a good ol’ fashion fire work show.

Bright, loud, colorful, exciting, impressive.

You’ll find all that on stage at the Los Angeles Theatre Center’s Tom Bradley Theater.

Just don’t go looking for anything after the smoke clears

The playwright’s “loving husband” José Luis Valenzuela directs quite lovingly.

 

* * *

 Latino Theater Company presents

A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story

PERFORMANCES:

• Thursdays at 8 p.m. (Part A: Mexican Revolution to Cuban Missile Crisis):
Sept. 8 (preview), 15 (opening), 22, 29; Oct. 6
• Fridays at 8 p.m. (Part B: assassination of JFK to death of Pope John Paul II ):
Sept. 9 (preview), 16 (opening), 23, 30; Oct. 7
• Saturdays at 5 p.m. (Part A): Sept. 10 (preview), 17, 24; Oct. 1, 8
• Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. (Part B): Sept. 10 (preview), 17, 24; Oct. 1, 8
• Sundays at 3 p.m. (Part A): Sept. 11 (preview), 18, 25; Oct. 2, 9
• Sundays at 6:30 p.m. (Part B): Sept. 11 (preview), 18, 25; Oct. 2, 9

WHERE:

Los Angeles Theatre Center
Tom Bradley Theater
514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles CA 90013

HOW:

• To purchase tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or
• for a complete schedule and tickets go to www.thelatc.org
• For group sales, call (213) 489-0994

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Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, Among the Vipers was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist three times in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. After a wild and misspent youth, which lasted well into middle age, Kearney has settled down and is focusing on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. Ernest's stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

Latest comments
  • Ernest Kearney

    My thanks for all the kind words.

    sincerely,

    ernest

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  • Ernest Kearney

    wELL MY THANKS TO YOU AND THE SPOUSE, I PROMISE WE’LL NOT DISAPPOINT.

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