More than thirty years ago, I remember La Victima was referred to as one of those landmark plays of Chicano Theater and something that had to be seen to understand Mexican American history.
I had never been able to catch the play (when it was performed originally by El Teatro de la Esperanza) so when I heard that the Latino Theater Company was bringing it back I was eager to see if the play held its relevancy after all these years.
It did much more than that.
It brought to the forefront the immigration debate and put it into historical perspective from the Mexican Revolution to the Great Depression to the later struggle of unionizing workers. But it also showed how much of the immigration debate is still being fought today in this election year, when the economy is down as it was in the historical periods captured in this play.
The play puts into perspective the historical significance of the anti immigration campaigns in this country with the Bracero and Repatriation periods and how family members are literally pitted against one another to survive.
Who is legal? Who is undocumented?
La Victima depicts vividly when cheap labor is needed in the U.S. and how it is rejected or deported during leaner times.
La Victima puts it all out there with excellent performances from veteran actors like Lupe Ontiveros who plays Amparo, the matriarch and one of the primary victims in this play. Alexis de la Rocha gives a memorable performance as the young Amparo along with Olivia Cristina Delgado who for the first time performs with this company. A singer (Cita Ochoa) narrates the play between scenes and time periods dressed up in a Flamenco dress with a shaved head and red flower ornament. In a Chicano rock avante guard way she brings the play to present day.
Director Jose Luis Valenzuela does an excellent job directing this epic play with brilliant lighting of the scenes and subtitles that are given as the play is delivered from Spanish to English and back and forth seamlessly as a bilingual experience. This is the second time Valenzuela is directing La Victima. Last time he directed it was back in 1987 and to celebrate the Latino Theater Company's 25th Anniversary, he brought it back.
La Victima proves to be as current as it was back in the late 70's in a haunting sort of way that makes you ask yourself how far has this country come with this issue after a hundred years since the start of the Mexican Revolution in 1910? After leaving I thought how important this play would be for the younger generation to see how history repeats itself and how the election issues of this year go back a hundred years.
"La Victima" ÔÇô 25th Anniversary Revival
Written by: El Teatro de la Esperanza
Directed by: Jose Luis Valenzuela
Produced by: The Latino Theater Company
Through October 31st
Thursday ÔÇô Saturday at 8pm . Sunday at 3pm
The epic story of a family in search of a better life, separated by borders, lost dreams and lost identity