Dallas — ¡Buenos días! Good morning. Sueños. Dreams. Estrella. Star. Familia. Family. Cuidado. Care. Costumbres. Customs. Nunca. Never. Gracias….
Echoing with gleeful laughter throughout a full house on opening night, children and adults alike participated in the magic that was Mariachi Girl’s opening night at the Dallas Children’s Theater. Excitement and anticipation filled the room as actors clad in authentic mariachi outfits canvased the audience and cajoled us to cry out loud, ¡Viva México! We all got a Spanish lesson to boot!
After the introductions of key sponsors and the awarding of gift certificates to three lucky winners, Harper Wright, a talented eight-year-old girl, came on stage to receive her due recognition: she won the mariachi hat design contest. As such, she got to work with the costume designer to create the lovely mariachi hat that Cita wears in the opening scenes. And lovely it was!
Live mariachi music laces the entire performance, with an original score by Mexican composer Héctor Martínez Morales under the musical direction of Julián Arizola. The lovely voices of David Lugo (the father), Aisha San Roman (Cita), Krishma Trejo (the Teacher), Vanessa DeSilvio (the mother), Armando Monsivais and mariachi ensemble make this a musical in the most fluid and natural of ways.
The songs are well-placed, offering insight into Cita’s feeling of desire of wanting to be a mariachi, and her frustration with her father’s forbidding it due to a family tradition of having only an all-male mariachi band. The songs, all in Spanish, make perfect sense, even if one does not speak the language. Particularly touching are the scenes between Cita (San Roman) and her mother (DeSilvio), since these two actors resonate with each other in a most tender way, just as a mother and child would.
San Roman is perfectly cast for this role, as she brings both innocence and resolve to her character. DeSilvio once again proves her acting breadth in this role, quite soft and tender, the opposite of her 2013 role as Woman in the Kitchen Dog Theater’s 2013 production of Octavio Solis’s Se Llama Cristina, in which she stole the show. David Lugo, as the strong figure, is also well-cast and proves his acting versatility, as this role is quite a switch from his recent performance at the Dallas Theater Center in Luis Alfaro’s Oedipus el Rey. Krishma Trejo sparkles as the half-white, half-Mexican teacher who instills in Cita the idea that she could be anything she wants to be.
The theme of the play centers on positive Mexican cultural identity and the perpetuation of traditions in spite of living in the United States. Remembering where one comes from, while embracing new opportunities for growth, is also central. The clear message is the importance of having a positive self-image for young girls of any ethnicity or cultural background.
The staging enjoys the magical aspects of sophisticated digital moving images projected onto three screens in the background. Here set and lighting designer Amarante Lucero deserves special mention. The dream sequences are subtle and magical and, while they look perfect and natural, the technical sophistication is evident.
Saving the best for last, playwright Roxanne Schroeder-Arce puts her heart and quite playful soul into this piece. Her characters sound and act real. There are moments of lightness when everything transpiring on stage could have happened in our own living rooms.
And then there is Robyn Flatt, whose expert hand of direction makes this play into a jewel. The timing flows, the set is functional and beautiful, and she is able to get her actors give it their best. As many times as I have read various versions of this script, and seen it in workshop, this evening’s performance drew tears from my eyes. I could not tell if they were from the sheer joy that this play evokes, or from a vicarious sense of pride and relief to see Mexican culture represented with dignity, professionalism and pride. Kudos for Dallas Children’s Theater for programing this play and for serving the large Hispanic community of this city. We look forward to seeing more stories like this one on stage.
» Teresa Marrero is Associate Professor of Latin American and Latino Theater, Department of World Languages, Literatures and Cultures at the University of North Texas in Denton
» In addition to the run at DCT, there will be a free performance of Mariachi Girl at the Latino Cultural Center as part of the center’s Target Second Saturday program on April 12 at noon. Mariachi Girl will also be performed for D.I.S.D. students at the LCC on April 8, 10, and 11, 2014.