Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Bruja" ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

If you want to really enjoy Luis Alfaro's "Bruja," which is having its World Premiere at the Magic, make sure you re-acquaint yourself with Euripides' "Medea" -- which you probably missed when it opened, back in 431 BC. The mystical sorceress, driven to madness by lost love, dominated the imaginations of the ancient Greeks and her timeless story touches us still.

Alfaro, in the third of his trilogy of Greek tragedies relocated, loosely, to downtown 21st Century Los Angeles, gives us a Medea (Sabina Zuniga Varela) who is a Nahuatl healer, a Jason (Sean San Jose) who is a day laborer blinded by thoughts of economic success, a virtual one-woman Greek chorus in Medea's servant Vieja (Wilma Bonet) and a Creon ( the always spellbinding Carlos Aguirre), the doomed local tycoon who knows everyone's limits better than they themselves.

We find a few small nits to pick. The kids' passivity makes no sense -- what L.A. kid is not going to run when he sees his mama coming for him with a sword? And the compromises of Vieja's language -- Alfaro wants her to be real, and therefore speaking Spanish or at least Spanglish, but he needs an English-speaking audience to understand her. There are several moments where the author achieves neither. Wilma Bonet, a great actor, could perhaps convey her message more convincingly with less dialog.

This is a terrific show. If you see the story through the eyes of Alfaro and Artistic Director Loretta Greco, you can grasp it at its heart: we all struggle to confront our own monster. Sometimes we slay her and sometimes she slays us but it is always the voyage that brings us home. Que viva la bruja!

RATINGS : ☼  ☼  ☼  ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "Bruja" Four Stars. Please, at the very least, read a synopsis of "Medea" before you go. If you don't, certain actions may seem overwrought. But if you do, you will see that the characters have no choice but to behave the way they do. Luis Alfaro has given us a fascinating new path into a story we already know well.

Magic Theater
Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco
Through June 24

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