Review by Dale Reynolds, Senior Theater Critic
Theatre veterans Rose Portillo and Theresa Chavez’s About Theatre Company has collaborated with Los Lobos’ Louie Pérez to create, Evangeline, The Queen of Make-Believe, an uneven tale that combines the explorative future of a teenaged Latina from East L.A. and the 1968 Walkouts at several Latino/a-dominated high schools. Both stories are worthy of dramatization, but both are unhappily given short-shrift here in the crossover.
With its psychedelic color- and projections-designed set (Francois-Pierre Couture) and fine video design (Claudio Rocha), the two directors create a real, if stylized, time when young Latinas were expected to prepare themselves only for marriage and children, and their male siblings were trained to be auto-mechanics and gardeners; the expectations were deliberately kept low, both by the White Establishment and the Brown “realists.” The script shallowly delves into both those problems, but because they have wedded the storylines to the music of the era (The Seeds, Electric Prunes, The Temptations, etc.), to music from Latin Playboys (Same Brown Earth, Fiesta Erotica, Ironsides) and, of course, eleven songs from the Los Lobos Songbook (Good Morning, Aztlan, River of Fools, I Walk Alone, and Evangeline) it creates a time-line of the period.
Their show is entertaining and the political/social points made by the two storylines are valuable, both as to time-and-place and how today is reflected in
this past. And the casting is a plus, with Catherine Lidstone as Evangeline Ibarra; Jorge Diaz as her brother, Ramon; Danielle Barbosa as her widowed, conservative mother; Daniel Chácon in three wonderfully realized roles; Georgia Reed fun as the leader of the go-go dancers on the Sunset Strip (witty choreography by Michele Bachar); and Karen Anzoategui as Rita, Evangeline’s prima, a ballsy, Rosie O’Donnell-type aggressor. The two “ensemble” understudies who contribute well are Gina Gomez and Denisse Schwartz.
Another, perhaps unforeseen problem, is that the band, “The Neighborhood,” excellent as it is (Scott Rodarte, Musical Director), set behind the action on the back of the stage, often overwhelms the superb singing of CAVA, a late 20s, powerful-voiced, presence , whose lyrics were often lost to our ears.
This is a pleasurable, and somewhat engaging, production. But one hopes that it will get a needed re-write of its book, to not lessen the lessons to be learned. This is real L.A. history, mostly forgotten – or never learned – and therefore useful to us all.
Evangeline runs through June 2nd only at the Bootleg Theatre, 2222 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057. Tickets: 213.389.3856 or at www.aboutpd.org.