With some Spanglish plays having greater presence on mainstream American stages over the past several years, it's only natural that more Latino playwrights or plays about Latin-American culture would surface onto these stages. And it's hard to ignore the beautiful words from plays such as Electricidad and Oedipus El Rey (both written by Luis Alfaro) as well as Living Out (Lisa Loomer) and Anna in the Tropics (Nilo Cruz).
With My Tia Loca's Life of Crime, playwright Roy Conboy flourishes with his imagery of locations in the San Francisco-Bay Area as well as Orange County California, especially the streets of Twin Peaks; the Marina District; and Fountain Valley. My Tia Loca's Life of Crime is directed by John Caldon; produced by San Francisco's Guerilla Rep; and being performed at Bindlestiff Studio.
The play chronicles the experiences of Tia Loca/Lola Niño (played by Cat Callejas) from Orange County to San Francisco to Tijuana and back to San Francisco. It's narrated by her nephew Memo (Melvign Badiola). The rest of the cast comprises of Lainey Garrity as Elena Ortega; Matt Gunnison as the Man; Kirsten Broadbear as the Woman; with musicians Brandon Bigelow and Jonah Pavon as the Bad Ass Band.
The story begins with the Fountain Valley police arresting Memo and Tia Loca with interrogation by Officer Elena Ortega. From there, the play flashes back to moments in Lola's life, including meeting the love of her life John Schmidt and giving birth to her baby daughter. Her adventures include being taken to Tijuana and running away from immigration authorities.
The performances by Callejas and Badiola certainly are highlights of the show due to their wonderful chemistry as aunt and nephew with their dialogues. Most noteworthy were their humorous exchanges in the opening scene and scene eight. And both performers not only showed their acting prowess but their singing talents as well with a few musical numbers during some scenes' transitions.
And in outstanding supporting roles are Garrity, Gunnison, and Broadbear. Garrity did well with the handling of the Spanglish language. Gunnison and Broadbear were hilarious in all their many different roles as police officers; house help; and as John Schmidt for Gunnison.
Caldon's staging and blocking of entrances and exits as well as costume changes onstage during the transitions were simply brilliant and perfect. Caldon should be commended for a superb cast and the performances by each actor.
The technical elements were fantastic, including scenic design by Tanya Orellana; lighting design by Julien Elstob; sound design by Matt Stines; and costume design by Alex Zeek. Orellana's scenic design were tantalizing with Christmas lights adorning the stage and a floor painted with the borders of Aztlan and Aztlan Ocupado with tables and chairs that doubled as furniture as well as vehicles during the production.
Elstob's lighting of the performers seemed flawless, including timely transitions. Stines sound design accentuated the scenes nicely along with Bigelow and Pavon playing instruments to mimic sound effects were remarkable. And Zeek's costumes were selected well for the production.
My Tia Loca's Life of Crime performs Thur-Sat @ 8 pm at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 - 6th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 near the corner of Howard St through Sat., June 2, 2012. For tickets and more information, call (415) 694-1338 or click on the links below:
Guerilla Rep: http://guerrillarep.com/page/2
Brown Paper Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/243065