Greek Tragedy! That is what Euripides’ “Medea” is known as. Many theater audiences avoid attending these “downer” stories , but as proven by Luis Alfaro’s sensational hit, “Oedipus el Rey”, if the story is adapted to fit our world and the things that are familiar to us, the meaning becomes far greater to those watching the action on the stage. Based on this, Alfaro has taken “Medea” to a new level, transforming it to a story about a Mexican woman, Medea ( the powerful and always strong Sandra Delgado) who , with her boyfriend , Jason ( Juan Francisco Villa)and their son, Acan ( Dylan M. Lainez who alternates with Ricky Reyes), along with a housekeeper Tita ( deftly handled by Socorro Santiago) have left Mexico and made it to Pilsen on the south side of Chicago. Here, Jason has found work outside of the home and Medea has become a beloved seamstress, making clothes that the women of the area cherish.
Pilsen is a neighborhood that has always been a haven for immigrants, but now is changing to a “yuppie” area due to the University of Illinois and all the new construction in the area. Little Village, an area just to the west of Pilsen is in fact an area that is 100% Mexican ( which Pilsen was until the expansion of the University). It is an area with many three flats and Chicago bungalows and the building that they live in is owned by a wealthy woman, Armida ( the always reliable and powerful Sandra Marquez) who hires Jason and allows them to have this apartment as part of his “Package”.The set( Yu Shibigaki) truly looks like the back yard in the “hood” with its high wooden porch and stairs leading to each deck area of the porch. The wires go from the building to the “alley” and one truly has the feeling that we are in that particular “alley” peeking over the invisible fence at the story going on in that building>
As we learn about these characters, each with their own “secrets” and agendas, we see that this is a story about issues dealing with immigration ( having to sneak into a country to escape a life of poverty and shame), race ( being treated, for the most part as a second class person because of ones’ heritage), gender ( how a woman is forced to be almost a slave, unless they have power and money). That is what this play is all about! Escaping from Mexico to the new world is all they wanted- to keep the “family” as a unit and to develop roots in their new country, but because of politics and power, Jason is swayed to follow a different path, one that causes their love to be wiped away and causes Medea to deal with new challenges, ones that she cannot cope with. There is another character in the story. Josephina ( the lovely Charin Alvarez) whose character brings some lightness and comic touches to the story ( imagine a tragedy with comic touches!).
Directed by Chay Yew, who was part of the inspiration to create this “Chicago” story, this 2 hours and 20 minutes ( two acts with intermission) uses the stage area as well as the aisles and small sections of the Victory Gardens Theater during the play. We do get into the actual escape from Mexico and the border crossing, as well as the travel to Chicago from the west. Most of the audience probably had no idea as to the cost ( dollars and emotions) and fear that these risk takers endure to get out of where they are to begin that new life. We also learn of Jason going to the Home Depot every day to find work. Take a look one morning and you will see that this is real- The Home Depot on Cicero and Grand Avenue; The McDonalds on Lawrence and Pulaski, the Dunkin Donuts/Shell on Milwaukee and Belmont. These are just a few spots that workers ( ethnics) go with their tools in hope of finding some day labor in construction. In Jason’s case, his employer wanted more, so he was given more, but the cost was far greater than he ever anticipated.
This is a brilliantly told story with just the right touches. Heather Gilbert’s lighting,David Hyman’s costumes,Jesse Gaffney’s props ( so perfect), Liviu Pasare’s projections, Mikhail Fiksel’s sound and the fight choreography by Ryan Bourque all make this a sterling evening of theater, one that is sure to open our eyes to a way of life that we are only told about in snippets- this is true entertainment and in many ways, educational. “Mojada” will continue at The Victory Gardens Theater located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue through August 11th with performances as follows:
Tuesdays 7:30 p.m,.
Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. ( except on 7/31 at 2 p.m.)
Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at 4 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.Tickets range from $20-$60 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 773-871-3000 or online at www.Victorygardens.org
There are many events with speakers -post show discussions as well as pre-shows which you will find on the website.There will also be a one night presentation of “Empanda For A Dream” on July s8th at 7:30 p.m. a play that I reviewed earlier at 16th Street Theatre, starring Juan Villa
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review-Round-Up and click at “Mojada”