From Self-destruction to Self-realization...is This Us?

Play review: "Light in the Darkness", a play by Ramon "Monxi" Flores at CASA 0101

By Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor
Published on LatinoLA: September 16, 2013

From Self-destruction to Self-realization...is This Us?

Once again, East L.A.'s Chicano Art Theater CASA 0101 has produced another great stage play that carries a message and a positive moral lesson that calls to the masses ... if only the masses will listen long enough to take a journey...

The journey begins in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles in 1995..."the old neighborhood" to a lot of Chicanos since the turn of the last 2 centuries.

Ramon "Monxi" Flores's brother Rogelio was killed in a senseless drive-by street gang shooting...something that has almost become a bland statistic in Los Angeles...unless it happens to YOU!

In response, rather than take the violent road to revenge, which perpetuates the cycle of gang violence, Ramon instead decided to involve himself in the community in which he grew up in...and that had claimed his brother's life.

Dedicating himself to community service and the art of storytelling, he adapted & directed the play " Light in the darkness", a contemporary stage drama reflecting the violent, seductive, and almost always fatal life of the gang lifestyle in Los Angeles today.

This is the CHICANO version.....

The play is well acted, and the story becomes clear from the start ... with a few surprises along the way that keeps the audience enthralled and on the edge of their seats during some scenes. Along the way, the play seeks to give some insight into the warped mindset & attraction of the drug-street gang scene that has claimed the young lives of so many ... and as distasteful as it may be in reality, the play holds back little, and some scenes border on realistically disturbing.

Johnny Ortiz plays the lead character of Carlos Alvarado, a young Chicano gang member from Boyle Heights whose mother died of drug overdose shortly after he was born, and whose father has spent his life in prison ... .leaving the streets of Boyle Heights to raise Carlos in the gang culture & lifestyle.

Living the life of parties, drugs, sex, violence, and crime, Carlos and his gang friends portray the epitome of the I don't give a fuck" mentality of today's young gang members that plague the streets of society today. ... sadly, the ultimate products & weapons of an uncaring society that has turned it's back on the disenfranchised.

(I must say ... During some of these scenes, I felt a sense of familiarity & recognition that annoyed me to a sense of distaste, and imbued upon me a renewed gratitude for having survived the streets and having left that type of lifestyle ... yet, it left me with a sense of sadness that this, in reality, is a part of my people nobody wants to talk about today ... such is the credit to the Director and actors to bring about such introspection from an audience member!)

Just as Carlos's stock & reputation in the street takes a wicked turn for the worst after he begins to commit murders, his friends become victims themselves, and Carlos and his girlfriend Liz (played by Sara Aceves) have to face another reality they hadn't planned ... a baby is on the way.

Carlos is struck with a deep sense of conflicting emotions that range from anger to regret, to a new sense of responsibility for his yet-to-be-born child.. all the while, his friends fall one by one, suffering "payback", and a member of Carlos's family becomes a victim to sexual violence at the hands of one of Carlos's friends despite Carlos's earlier warning.

Artistically disturbing and mesmerizing (is that a possible juxtaposition?) each time a death occurs during the play, Aztec spirits are invoked and forthcoming ... and the haunting appearance of Tezcatlipoca ,the Aztec God of the night and the smoking mirror (played by Victor Yerba) commands the spirits of the recently killed to be lured into the smoke & darkness of the underworld...some screaming as they go...

At his wit's end because of certain turns of events, Carlos takes an unexpected drug-induced spiritual journey that brings him face to face with ghosts from his past, present, and future...and a face to face meeting with Tezcatlipoca and the death spirits of the underworld who have taken his friends... and have now come for him...

The surprise ending is something you have to see for yourselves!

Thus, is the play "Light in the darkness" ... originally written by Victor Tamayo, an Iraq War Veteran from East Los Angeles, adapted & directed by Ramon "Monxi" Flores, produced by Emmanuel Deleage, and presented by CASA 0101 Theater and MEXICA Films.

Truly an artistic expression of life, fused with a social statement YOU WON'T forget.

The cast is a superb group of 19 talented actors that I really appreciated for their performance, and as an added attraction, there is a wonderful Art exhibit in the gallery of CASA 0101 that is available for your viewing during the running of the play,
which runs until September 29th.

For a brief preview of the show:

For tickets & info: www.casa0101.org

LatinoLA takes great pride in supporting the efforts and Latino Arts promoted by CASA0101.


About Frankie Firme, Contributing Editor:
Frankie Firme is the "Voice of Azltan" ~ Chicano writer, radio personality & DJ heard daily on www.eastLArevue.com who helps support & promote the Arts of the Latino Culture...and feels ever so lucky to do so!
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