Friday, April 17, 2009

review - Lydia



by Octavio Solis

directed by Juliette Carrillo

Mark Taper Forum

through May 17

There's an unforgettable line in James Goldman's The Lion in Winter, where Eleanor of Aquitane intones, "Every family has its ups and downs". In Lydia, currently at the Mark Taper Forum, the 70s Mexican-American family depicted are crushed victims, all: father, mother, younger and older sons are hanging in there, daughter Ceci barely. In the course of 3 hours, Octavio Solis smacks us in the face with so many raw emotions that by play's end, when we hit the air outside, there is a sigh of relief that the pain is over, but, I found myself not regaining a true feeling of comfort or sense of balance during the two days after seeing Lydia, such is the impact of this powerful piece of poetry.

I did not live in a family like this one or experience the excruciating pain of Ceci (Onahoua Rodriguez), left completely paralyzed after an auto accident, but I did fear my father's wrath, sense my mother's insecurity and have the growing pains and passions of first love. These universal qualities are enough to make an audience relate, especially for a woman to feel the "ball of fire" Ceci describes growing inside her. Through Solis' revelatory execution, Ceci, although practically a vegetable, becomes normal for minutes at a time and confides to the audience her feelings and reactions to those around her. It is the newly hired mojada or 'wetback' maid Lydia, who through a similar past accident, bears a spiritual connection to young Ceci. Lydia and Ceci become inseparable, and Ceci channels through Lydia the horrors of her accident, also involving her brother Rene and cousin Alvaro with whom she was passionately consumed.

Under Juliette Carrillo's fast paced and fluid staging, Rodriquez is amazing, particularly in her physical portrayal, as one minute she is in liquid motion and the next on the floor writhing in isolated pain. Such a challenge for an actor to carry off and Rodriguez does it magnificently! Stephanie Beatriz plays Lydia with a streetwise and coquettish sense of humor that disguises her mysterious nature. Carlo Alban is heartwarming as the young son Misha, the teenager who would rather write poetry than play football to the chagrin of dad Claudio, played with vehement machismo by Daniel Zacapa. Tony Sancho is the brash homophobic brother Rene and Max Arciniega, the elusively perplexing Alvaro. Catalina Maynard rounds out the outstanding ensemble as mom Rosa, desperately clinging to her faith at all costs.

Two lines of Solis stay with me: "Peace of mind? What is it?" and "There's never any why?!" Life's sorrows are inexplicably devastating. And the finale, obscenely raw, but with genuine pathos, is the ultimate act of love. My only misgiving with the entire play is the blatant and painful reality that it mirrors. Like O'Neill before him, who painted images with total realism, Solis is a playwright to be reckoned with.

4 out of 5 stars


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