Part family drama, part dementia themed, part conflict between patriarchy and new feminists, part LGBTQ concerns, part history lesson, part cultural diversity study -- all infused with dynamic live mariachi music -- Jose Cruz Gonzalez's American Mariachi closed its run at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival last weekend.
That's a lot to pack into a mere 100-minutes in a play that could benefit from editing/expanding to achieve a clearer focus.
Tia Carmen [Erenidra Izguerra] haunts the memory of Soyla [Gloria Vivica Benevides] who is suffering from dementia and under the care of her daughter Lucha [Elizabeth Romero] while her father Federico [Ricardo Gutierrez] supports the family as a mariachi musician. -- Lucha wants to start her own mariachi group, but it is 1970, and women traditionally don't play mariachi.
But Lucha persists, challenged by finding other women to join her despite the patriarchy that dominates their individual lives and their Mexican American culture, challenged by having to split her time between caring for her mother and pursuing her dreams, challenged by the mysterious rift between her father and Uncle Mino [Bobby Plasencia]...and we follow her growth as a musician and as a young woman to an eventual empowering resolution of both her private and public lives.
There is a mix of humor and pathos -- and some touching scenes that develop an understanding between generations and how to deal with afflictions.
At the forefront is the music: first, the solemn and passionate violin of Tia Carmen; then the solo and group of mariachi men; and eventually the blossoming of a female mariachi unit. All of which carries audiences forward in the story of the fulfillment of achievable dreams.