Monday, February 06, 2023

Theatre: Teenage Wasteland

 I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Isaac Gomez, Based on the novel by Erika L. Sanchez. Directed by Juliette Carrillo, Seattle Rep, through 5 February.

OK, this one works. Full play, large cast, even an intermission.  Yeah, I've had my fill of one-person performances for a while, and a bit of old-school theater (created recently, but in the old forms) is appreciated.  

Here's the basics: Julia is a volcanic fifteen-year-old nerd, half MTV's Daria and half Sam Kinison. She fights with her parents, comments sarcastically on everything, and lives in the shadow of her older sister, Olga, who IS the perfect Mexican daughter. Or WAS, because she got by a truck, while texting. We open with Olga's funeral, and Julia grousing about the mortician's makeup job. 

And the play is about grief and mourning and growing up. Julia blames herself for her sister's death, and for cutting herself off from her. There are a lot of incidents and accidents in the course of her maturing. We have dealing with family and friends. We have sex, drugs, violence, altercations major and minor. 

And it works. The actors across the board are excellent, with a lot of them taking on additional roles to swell this world even further. Karen Rodriguez is excellent a Julia, containing the infinities and pettiness that only a fifteen-year-old can have. Sofia Raquel Sanchez is an excellent Olga, sweet and perfect and flawed in her own right. Jazmin Corona is a tyrant mother in opposition with her willful child, and only when the child understands why does she become more sympathetic. And Marco Antonio Tzunux and Leslie Sophia Perez are stealing scenes right and left as Julia's over-the-top classmates. All of them come across as believable characters.

I usually pick on the business of the set design, but here it is broad and open, a set of moving rings in the center (thanks, Hamilton), with various props (doors, coffins, tables) drifting onto the stage or being dropped from above. The background is a beaded scrim, semi-translucent, with a beautiful hummingbird design on it. The actors have space to move and interact, and it really works. 

We watch Julia grow, fall, and rise again. Only when she recognized the flaws in others and in herself does she understand her world better, when she sees other people's scars in addition to her own. Over the course of the play, she evolves, and we get to grow with her. 

More later,