Explaining the Mexican American identity is not very easy to do in a play.
But if you understand the perennial conflict between Mexico's Indigenous and Spanish cultures that Nobel laureate Octavio Paz was so famous for writing about and exploring in "The Labyrinth of Solitude," it provides a useful path into the psyche.
Paz believed the Mexican identity was inevitably torn between the two cultures and that his Countrymen hid behind masks of solitude. And that essential emotional and cultural struggle is at the root of the play "Solitude." It is a creation of playwright Evelina Fernandez who was inspired by the famous Mexican author.
The play also taps into the struggle between what it is to be Mexican and what it is to be American. Fernandez artfully succeeds in transferring the Mexican-Spanish dichotomy to the realm of the Mexican descendant striving to succeed and retain his cultural soul in the good old U.S. of A.
Solitude is the story of a wealthy Latino lawyer named Gabriel (Geoffrey Rivas) who comes back to his old neighborhood for the funeral of his mother whom he did not see the last twenty years of her life. What has he lost or traded away in his quest to attain the American dream? After the funeral, his old girlfriend Ramona (Evelina Fernandez) and childhood friend Johnny (Sal Lopez) come to his house for a funeral reception where they do a superb job of reviewing his abandonment of his family, culture and friends.
At the house, Gabriel's seemingly shallow wife Sonia (Lucy Rodriguez) laments that her maid Juana has the day off to participate in the Million Immigrant March and cannot tend to the unexpected guests. Also in attendance is the sexy limo driver, (Robert Beltran) who constantly quotes Octavio Paz and considers himself an expert on love and the the art of making love. He is accompanied by a live cellist (Semyon Kolbialka) named "Chelo" who performs flawlessly throughout the play, setting the mood of the scenes and facilitating the transition between scenes.
Throughout each scene the actors also dance in sensual sequences (choreographed by Urbanie Lucero) like surreal tango and mambo dancers expressing their moods of solitude.
Last but not least is Angel (Fidel Gomez) who plays Ramona's son and is the love child of Gabriel he never knew. All of the actors acquit themselves admirably, expressing the complexity of the characters they portray.
At the end of the play when Gabriel asks her if Angel is his son, Ramona answers that he hasn't raised him so he is not the father. "Being a father means more than just fertilizing an ovum," she tells him. Once again Gabriel is reminded of one of the most important things in life that he missed being away for twenty years, the love of a son adding to the list of a loving mother, caring friends and such is a life of solitude.
Needless to say, Solitude is a good reminder of what not to do if you don't want to remain lonely the rest of your life.
Solitude is being held over for another week at the Los Angeles Theatre Center ÔÇô October 8th through 11th.