REVEW OF "PEDRO INFANTE Y LA SUEGRA TRIUNFANTE" by Toby Campion
“Ventura County Star, 3 July 2014
By Rita Moran
Mothers-in-law don’t usually get a rousingly positive treatment in theater pieces that focus on them. But Doña Pancha, the grandmother, mother and mother-in-law who gets title billing in “Pedro Infante y La Suegra Triunfante” (“Pedro Infante and the Triumphant Mother-in-Law”) is the center of a fun-loving but thoughtful production by Teatro de las Americas.
Toby Campion’s “comedy with music” played to a full house at Oxnard College Performing Arts Center’s Black Box space Saturday night and continues through July 12. Teatro, active for many years as Ventura County’s most prominent Spanish language theater purveyor, usually presents plays completely in Spanish. But “Pedro Infante” blends in English as it accommodates three generations of a family that began in Mexico and now is settled in Whittier, California. Teatro’s board also is open to presenting plays in English translations from the original Spanish, a move likely to broaden its audience.
Teatro uses English supertitles — diligently prepared by executive director Margaret Cortese — so non-Spanish speakers can follow the onstage dialogue. “Pedtro Infante” drew extra laughs when the playgoers realized that the lively granddaughter’s colloquial California English was appearing in the supertitles translated into Spanish.
Campion, a Santa Barbara-based playwright, was in the near overflow audience Saturday night, taking a modest bow at the production’s conclusion. The play first was presented in 2012 by the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts in Los Angeles.
Teatro’s production is codirected by Robert Sanchez and the company’s artistic director, Patricia Casiano, who also appears in the leading role of Doña Pancha. Hugo Contreras is musical director. Making the mix of acting and music work well is a strong cast and good musicianship all around.
The lead actors are particularly effective. As the story unfolds, Doña Pancha’s nostalgia for Mexico is wrapped in her near adoration of Pedro Infante, a real-life Mexican singer-actor who died in 1957. It seems that as a child she attended one of his huge concerts and actually got his autograph.
Juan Gonzales, who plays Pedro Infante, easily makes you believe that he could have been a very popular singer and a suave actor. Gonzales’ voice is gentle and caressing, the type of voice that has fascinated many audiences over decades. Appearing to Doña Pancha after she has taken a tumble and is seeing otherworldly visions, Pedro Infante is dressed in handsome mariachi attire and happily sings a number of songs, some of which the audience sang or clapped along with as they savored the familiarity.
While allowing that he was no model of virtue himself, Pedro Infante suggests to Doña Pancha that family bonds are more important than where you live, and that understanding and kindness are keys to a happier life. Casiano’s Doña Pancho is no slouch herself as a singer and, when she sheds her household attire for a vivid printed dress, is a joyful dancer as well.
Adah Chavez is Chayo, Doña Pancha’s daughter and a successful businesswoman who sees things pretty much in black and white. Sami Anguiano is a charming Andrea, the granddaughter whose boyfriend and potential husband has taken off for Mexico leaving her bereft, when she isn’t being a typical teen concentrating on her cellphone and other electronic devices.
Andres Sanchez is the easily teased husband of Chayo who gets to know their next-door neighbor almost too well after driving over flowers she’s planted. Ellie Gonzalez makes the most of her role of the neighbor, Melanie, who’s dressed to tempt and keeps her motor running just in case a prospect shows up.
The show is a relaxing combination of excellently performed music, some thoughts worth pondering and lots of fun in the lines and portrayals. But it’s worth seeing, and hearing, just to enjoy Gonzalez’s singing.
Teatro de las Americas will present Toby Campion’s comedy, in Spanish with English supertitles, through July 12 in the Black Box Theater at the Oxnard College Performing Arts Center, 4000 S. Rose Ave., Oxnard. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with a 5 p.m. show on July 6. Tickets are $25 for reserved seats, $15 for general admission and $10 for students, seniors and military. Call 983-2876 or visit http://teatrodelasamericas.org.Type your paragraph here.
Juan Gonzales as Pedro Infante, Pat Casiano as Doña Pancha. Teatro de las Americas, Oxnard, 2014-15.
LOGLINE: Stuck in the States, dreaming of going home to Mexico—what can a grandmother do? Her family is at wit’s end. Who can help her? Ahí viene Pedro Infante! Here comes Pedro Infante!
Vetza Trusell as Doña Pancha and David Carreño as Pedro Infante. BFA of L.A., 2012.
FULL SCRIPT AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
(AL COMENZAR EL SEGUNDO ACTO, DOÑA PANCHA
SE ENCUENTRA EN EL MÁS ALLÁ CON EL ÍDOLO DE SU JOVENTUD):
is a two-act comedy with music, presented in Spanish with English supertitles. It is the second installment of the trilogy ENTRE DOS MUNDOS, which celebrates various facets of Latin American music and culture. My thanks to the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts of L.A., where it premiered in 2012 under the direction of Denise Blasor. That same year, the production traveled to Whittier College and to the Carpinteria Playhouse. A new production was mounted by El Teatro de las Americas at Oxnard College in 2014-15 under the co-direction of Robert Sanchez and Pat Casiano. READ THE REVIEW of the Oxnard production in "The Ventura Star," at the bottom of this page.