Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles
Also see Fred's recent review of The Art of Burning
Elderly Tita (Alma Martinez) opens with a lengthy monologue, providing perspective as she slowly moves about in front of a gray house in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles. Scenic designer Marcelo Martinez Garcia opens up the stage, but the home itself, while anything but new, is nevertheless imposing. Tita labels herself a servant, but that understates her role as a family guide and confidant who may provide insight or, if need be, simply water plants. Medea (Camila Moreno), an attractive woman in a white outfit designed by costumer Kitty Cassetti, is a seamstress who works laboriously on her sewing machine, which director Laurie Woolery has placed outside of the home. She is driven to succeed and make a decent life for her son Acan (Romar Fernandez). The young actor's eyes sparkle and he is trying to assimilate and enjoy himself. Medea is not officially married to the man of the house, Hason (Alejandro Hernández) but Acan is their child together. Hason, who has a bit of the Liev Schreiber look and physique, has an evolving attachment to Armida (Mónica Sánchez). Armida is hellbent upon making money and she will employ whatever means lead to a positive fiscal endpoint. The final character, Josefina (Nancy Rodriguez), laughs and chirps when she first appears. She, too, has troubles as someone in this country for a few years who, while concealing her fears, struggles as she sells bakery items. Luis Alfaro writes one complicated character after another and creates a set of complicated human beings.
Mojada, with a running time 15 minutes short of two hours, is for some time a most descriptive play, showing feelings of desperation and longing for homeland in Mexico as well. Its plot does not heighten until we receive a narrative depicting Zamora in Mexico, the family's former residence. Both atmosphere and story then turn. Projection designer Shawn Lovell-Boyle and lighting designer Stephen Strawbridge combine to display shifting hues and a temporary alteration of scenes. Tension escalates as symbolism and mysticism fuse during the final moments. The cumulative effect is nothing short of transfixing. We move from a show that is admirable through its atmosphere to one that is suddenly hugely engrossing. What happens next is of paramount importance.
Alma Martinez, as Tita, is incisive, piercing and detailed. With a page of stage, film and television credits to her name, she draws upon heart, soul and mind to bring an unforgettable presence to her character. Camila Moreno initially infuses Medea with zeal and spirit until the character blindly flails into rapid, violent mode. An actress who is at the beginning of her career, Moreno shows limitless promise. The surrounding performers are, to a person, exemplary. They summon energy when necessary and each takes the spotlight as it moves from one character to the next–no one dominates.
Director Woolery, an Obie award winner who has facilitated at theaters in many locales, wisely lends specificity to this production. Pace and tone vary and Woolery coaches her actors accordingly as speed accelerates and lessens. Author Alfaro has written a commanding script as he integrates the contemporary situation with ancient Greek reference. It is a non-linear piece of theater, a complex and telling tale with huge implications.
Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles runs through April 1, 2023, at Yale Repertory Theatre, University Theatre, 222 York St., New Haven CT. For tickets and information, please call 203-432-1234 or visit yalerep.org.