November 9 - November 15, 1995

Barrio Tedium

B y  J a n a  R i v e r a

CARAS Y MASCARAS: A Drunkard's Tale, written by local playwright Silviana Wood, attempts to capthe late 1960s and early 1970s, the height of the Chicano movement.

Unfortunately, it fails. What should be a keen drama depicting the ideology and passion of young political activists, is instead a lackluster two hours of exposition and incohesiveness. We see no show of anger and indignation, instead we are told people are angry and indignant.

The incohesiveness comes from a play that can't decide what it wants to be or what it wants to say. Out of a cast of six, at least two characters, Helen (Elizabeth Siqueiros) and Carlos (Carlos Acuña) have no apparent reason for being in the play and add nothing to the action.

The remaining four characters, Roshanda (Annabell Nuñez), a young barrio mother; Hector (Michael N. Garcia, Jr.), Roshanda's husband and a city sanitation worker; Nacho (Hector M. Ayala), a broken and crippled World War II veteran with a drinking problem; and Moonbeam (Delani D. Cody), an Anglo hippie; are drawn so shallowly they appear more as stereotypical caricatures than representatives of real people. Consequently, the relationships between them feel manipulated, hollow and empty.

Nacho comes closest to being a fully drawn character, and during the times when he's on stage alone, Ayala's superb portrayal of him provides the most moving parts of the play.

A baffling ploy used by Wood--to present the work as a play within a play--constantly reminds us the actors on stage are mere characters, and does not allow us an opportunity to empathize or give us a reason to get emotionally involved. I've seen the play-within-a-play done before quite successfully, but it seems to serve no purpose here. It's simply a distracting gimmick.

Interspersed through the second half, a black-and-white slide show of what I assume to be actual photographs from a Tucson barrio of that time, again lacks intensity. With the exception of one or two photos that reflect the impetus to the Chicano movement, we see nothing that most of us can't find in our own scrapbooks. To make matters worse, the slides are shown on the side of a barrio building, and the words "El Centro" block the expressive faces in the close-up photos.

Caras y Mascaras touches ever-so-fleetingly on many important and fascinating aspects of our local and national history, but never dives in to fully explore any one of them. This superficial movement throughout the play prevents us from accepting the overly dramatic ending, and we find it impossible to believe.

Web Berkley's clumsy set design of a typical barrio backyard, forcing actors through an awkward little gate practically every time they enter or exit, coupled with Miguel Ortega's direction leaving Nacho in his wheelchair in the center of the stage and all others circling him like planets in a solar system, adds to the tedium.

The redeeming factor in Caras y Mascaras? For the most part, the bilingual cast does a good job, particularly Ayala and Nuñez; however, they are either working with bad acoustics or poor direction, because many lines cannot be heard from the fifth row. In fact, whenever Acuña spoke, I could not even determine whether he was speaking English or Spanish.

Borderlands Theater's production of Caras y Mascaras: A Drunkard's Tale continues with performances through November 11 at 8 p.m. at the Tucson Center for the Performing Arts, 408 S. Sixth Ave. Tickets are $10 general admission, with discounts for students and seniors. For reservations call 882-7406.

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November 9 - November 15, 1995

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