Like having a favorite uncle home for the holidays, Cara Mia Theatre Co. restages an old favorite: Nuestra Pastorela. Performed in a playful mix of Spanish, English and gibberish, this version has clowns taking the place of the shepherds on their way to visit the baby Jesus. Written by Jeffry Farrell and David Lozano, directed by the former and clowned by the latter, it's a lively and sincere offering for the Christmas season.
The title Nuestra Pastorela is a play on words. Though the Spanish missionaries used pastorelas to convert the new world, you can find the method of employing lively skits to teach bible stories going back to almost anytime in history where there is a literate/language gap between the converters and the convertees. The trick is to keep the action heavy and the teaching light. The message gets conveyed while the crowd has a good time.
Even so, Nuestra Pastorela still feels like getting away with something. The clowning of David Lozano and Frida Espinosa-Müller is so lively and engrossing that it divests the event from any seasonal sappiness. When playing the role of shepherds, they are joined with Priscilla Rice as their Mama shepherd. The three have a ball working their way to Bethlehem by way of classic clown lazzi.
Along the way, the devil, Luzbel (Rodney Garza) and his inept minion, Pingo (Ivan Jasso) attempt to thwart them with the seven deadly sins. For some sins the help of Estrellita (Stephanie Cleghorn) is required. Garza's gives Luzbel just enough gravity to offset the levity of the evening without scaring the children and Jasso's squints and squirms wring sympathy for his devil.
Of course, the point of the story wouldn't be complete without Maria (Ana Gonalez) and Jose (Sergio Libo Rodriguez) and the Angel Gabriel (J.R. Bradford) who gets the ball rolling. But the climax is carried by a simple carol sung a cappella with pristine simplicity by Erin McGrew. For one moment the earnest subversion of the clowning is suspended and her voice alone conveys the peacefulness and power of the Savior's birth.
Linus would be proud.
Everyone knows what this show is about. The question is how much fun can they make it? It's no surprise that the answer is lots. What makes Nuestra Pastorela special is Lozano and Espinosa-Müller's clowns stripping away all the artifice of Christmas and the show leaving us with its simple, hopeful message. That's a gift worth giving to yourself.