The stories of how transitioning to a supposedly better life often comes at the detriment of lost traditions and values are numerous, and you may not find one as engagingly told as El Viaje de Tina, or Tina's Journey. The show has a limited run at the Latino Cultural Center, as a collaboration between Dallas' Cara Mía Theatre Company and Mexico City's Laboratorio de la Máscara.
There are two more performances here, Friday and Saturday. It'll also be performed later this year in Mexico City. Don't miss it.
Cara Mía artistic director David Lozano met Laboratorio's Alicia Martínez Álvarez in the 1990s, and has since wanted to work on a project with her, using techniques of mask and physical theater as expression. Lozano has long been fond of that aesthetic (his mentor, Jeffrey Farrell, was a student of Hip Pocket Theatre's Johnny Simons).
Álvarez directs and designs this production, and Cara Mía found funding from the Ford Foundation and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture, among other sources. The investment and effort paid off.
Tina's Journey is not only beautifully performed and conceived, it looks like a million bucks.
In the play by Berta Hiriart, the title character, Tina (Sofía López), is moving from Mexico to America with her parents Juana (Pilar Villanueva) and Cayetano (Martín Pérez). Tina is concerned over what will happen with their dead family members, and the parents explain the día de los muertos tradition of building an altar. The death of a friend, Benito (Ivan Jasso), allows Tina to explore the spirit world, where she finds her late grandparents, Evodia (Norma Duarte) and Torcuato (Armando Monsivais).
They then arrive in America, at the home of Tina's anut Eloisa (Frida Espinosa Müller), where she meets her Americanized, skateboarding cousin Mike (David Lozano). They set up a Mexican altar, but there are witches (played by Karen Robinson and Müller) and a Prince of Ice (Jasso) who bring snow and make it more difficult for Tina's ancestors to travel. There are also police, lending commentary to the Arizona situation in which anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant can be asked for papers.
All the while, Don Seferino (Griselda Ashari Martinez) plays live music on an onstage marimba (there's also music by late Mexican composer and musician Eugenio Toussaint).
The costumes (designed by Marte Synnevaag and Adriana Olivera) and masks (by Álvarez and Felipe Horta) are exquisitely made and some of them are simply gorgeous. The storytelling techniques involve object puppetry, beautiful fabric that represents weather and the elements, including water, wind and snow. The movement from the performers displays effortless physical control, executed with enviable and expressive polish. One highlight is a scene in which toy trucks are pulled and bounced to convey traffic congestion.
The production uses a 50/50 mix of Spanish and English, but even if there were no words, the narrative would still be evident in the sensory feast that is the physical storytelling.
That's a tradition, one hopes, that is never lost.
Here's a video from the show: