Friday, October 8, 2010

The Voice of LATC's La Victima Speaks Loudly

La Victima La Victima
(Left) Lupe Ontiveros and Geoffrey Rivas
(Right) Olivia Delgado, Evalina Fernandez, Lucy Rodriguez,
Cita and J. Ed Araiza.
Photos: Ed Krieger

Lupe Ontiveros may be best known to mainstream audiences for roles like Juanita Solis on Desperate Housewives, America Ferrera’s mother Carmen in Real Women Have Curves, and Yolanda Saldivar, the woman who murdered Tejano singer Selena in Selena, but in her current role in LATC’s production of La Victima she hopes to be seen, not as a single individual, but as an example of the suffering of an entire group of people.

In La Victima she recreates the role of Amparo, which she originated in 1986 when the play was first workshopped and then presented as the premiere production of The Latino Theater Company. In talking to her following the performance I attended, Ontiveros stressed the timeliness of the subject matter and how important it was for as many people as possible to see the production.

She is right. This is a compelling production, powerful in its delivery and strikingly effective from beginning to end. La Victima makes a bold political statement about the treatment of illegal immigrants in this country that begs to be acknowledged so it can be transformed.

It begins with a Mexican family, unable to prosper in their own country, that decides to illegally enter the U.S. in search of a better life. In the ensuing years, they find their lives pulled apart, dreams become corrupted and ideals compromised, until a final devastating blow occurs between mother and son. Subtitles are used throughout to enhance the story. When scenes take place in the U.S., subtitles in Spanish or Spanglish are projected above the action, and those in Mexico are accompanied by English subtitles.

In addition to Ontiveros, the cast is made up longtime LATC members Sal López, Evelina Fernández, Geoffrey Rivas and Lucy Rodriguez, joined by Luis Aldana, J. Ed Araiza, Alexis de la Rocha, Oliver Rayón and Olivia Delgado, all expertly guided by director Jose Luis Valenzuela. It is clear that the members of this talented ensemble are delivering a message close to their hearts.

One of the most intriguing elements of the play is the musical narration, written by performance artist Cita and musician Ricardo Ochoa, who is also musical director. These corridos (a type of popular Mexican storytelling ballad) are incredibly powerful, and she is an unforgettable figure, decidedly androgynous, with a raw passion in her voice that defies convention.

Valenzuela’s production is staged on a starkly abstract set by Teshi Nakagawa and lit dramatically by Francois-Pierre Couture. Costumes by Raquel Barreto, sound by John Zalewski and choreography by Urbanie Lucero all add to the strength of the theatrical experience.

Yes, La Victima is as relevant today as when it was written 35 years ago by El Teatro de la Esperanza. We have yet to find an acceptable process toward citizenship for illegals currently residing in the U.S. and now, more than ever, we are called upon to find a humane solution.

I have always believed that theatre has the ability to affect change in people in a unique way. The educational opportunity that exists within this production is profound. If the play causes you to take a hard look at your beliefs and the price of human dignity, then it has done its job. It certainly left me stirred up enough to want to continue the conversation it had started.


La Victima
runs through October 31 at LATC, 514 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013. For tickets and more information call 866-811-4111 or go to
www.thelatc.org/.

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