i put a fear of mexico in ’em
Playwright Olmos provides no reason for engagement, let alone fear
|Teatro Vista presents|
|i put the fear of mexico in ‘em|
Review by Catey Sullivan
Oh dear. Ricardo Gutierrez is a fine actor and a capable director, but in helming Teatro Vista’s i put the fear of mexico in ‘em, he’s in charge of a sinking ship. Nothing makes sense in Matthew Paul Olmos’ hot mess of an alleged drama – the piece is 95 disjointed minutes of people doing things that defy belief to the point of preposterousness. Nothing is remotely plausible here, from the physical actions of the characters to the emotional motivations that supposedly motivate them.
The piece opens in an ugly back alley somewhere in Tijuana where Mexicans Efren (Miguel Nunez) and Juana hi(Charin Alvererz) are apparently holding American tourists Jonah (Bryan Packard) and Adray (Cheryl Graeff) hostage. Olmos’ dialogue is an odd combination of head-scratchingly lewd and irrelevant – long before we find out why Jonah and Adray have been kidnapped, Efren lewdly interrogates them on their oral sex practices. That little snippet of conversation, like so many within the piece, neither advances the plot nor deepens the characters.
As the discussion of tonguing subsides, Olmos’ eventually clarifies, sort of, just why Efren and Juana are holding Jonah and Adray at gunpoint. Back in the United States, the American couple’s 13-year-old daughter Angela has fallen in love (or something) with Efren and Juana’s 13-year-old son Javier. If you haven’t read the program notes at this point, you may well be left puzzling over geographical logistics. Why is a boy who lives (and whose parents live) in Mexico attending middle school school hundreds of miles away in California?
While the program explains that Efren and Juana have sent Javier to California in hopes of bettering his life, Olmos’ play never even hints at this. It’s one of several gaping plot holes that plague i put the fear of mexico in ‘em.
One of several crucial questions left sloppily unaddressed: How do Efren and Juana know that Adray and Jonah are the parents of the girl who they fear will break their son’s heart? We’re asked to believe that of all the thousands of tourists in Tijuana any given day, Efren and Juana somehow miraculously find their way to the very parents of their son’s crush and that they recognize them immediately even though they’ve never met. Olmos’ timeframe is also intensely problematic. i put the fear of mexico in ‘em takes place over the course of a single day. Javier’s parents never communicate with him, yet they still somehow know that he’s fallen for Angela. They’re either intensely psychic or they’re the victim of shoddy plot construction. My bet’s on the latter.
Olmos also includes some utterly unrelated “plot developments” (in quotes because they’re actually more like confusing, unrelated tangents than anything else) about a Mexican pole dancer and a grisly double-murder near the border. Finally, there’s a late-game scene involving a Mexican police officer who acts as if he walked in from another show entirely, mugging and lisping and talking about tooth loss. If you’re still paying attention at this point, your reaction to la policia might well be a resounding WTF. It’s more likely, however, that you’ll have checked out long before the cop shows up. Olmos’ work simply provides no reason for engagement.
i put the fear of mexico in ‘em continues through December 9th at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 8pm; Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are $20-$25, and are available online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at TeatroVista.org. (Running time: 95 minutes)
Photos by Carillo Photos
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