Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Confessions of a MEXpatriate
Garza tells the story of Samuel, a very Americanized Latino media executive in Austin, Texas, who is struggling in his career and relationships. The pressures push him toward a breakdown. As a result, he escapes down to the Mexican state of Oaxaca, where the natives are extremely dark compared to his relatively light skin.
He discovers new connections with Oaxacans in both the cities, such as Mérida, and in the smaller towns. We also get to see just how Americanized Samuel is. While is family comes from Mexico, Samuel is culturally a full American. In Oaxaca, Samuel develops connections that bring him closer to himself, and he takes this sense of self back to America where he is better able to cope with the stresses of his very American life.
The play is produced by Teatro Vivo and presented as part of the second-annual Latino theatre festival, Siembra, which is hosted by the National Hispanic Cultural Center. The series has presented a wide range of plays by local and regional playwrights, and Confessions is one of the more polished and well-developed plays in the series.
While the script is well written, the language is strong, and Trejo's performance is engaging, the play needs a stronger punch to sustain 90 minutes of a single voice on the stage. As is, it teeters between a dramatic narrative and stand-up comedy. Allowing the play to fall in one direction or the other could provide the oomph to push the production up and into dramatic (or comedic) ether.
In the direction of stand-up comedy, it would be a matter of working on the funny. There are already plenty of laughs, they just need to come more often and go deeper into the belly. Yet that may not be the best turn for putting the final polish on Confessions. The play may be better served by upping the dramatic stakes.
We don't care enough about Samuel's pressures and eventual breakdown. We need to know more about his relationships at work and in his personal life. The betrayals need to run deeper and cost more. We get it that Samuel is devastated and ill equipped to deal with setbacks, yet the rough turns in his life do not seem sufficient to shake him to the core. Upping the ante on Samuel's problems may give the audience a way into his heart, and thus we might find him more sympathetic.
Confessions of a MEXpatriate, written by Raul Garza, will run through October 11, 2015, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Performances are at 7:30 Thursday through Saturday, and at 2:00 on Sunday. Tickets are $18, with a $3 discount for seniors and students. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the NHCC at 246-2262, or go to nationalhispaniccenter.org.