Sunday, June 14, 2015

This Golden State, Part One: Delano ☼ ☼ ☼

Most of "Delano" takes place within the walls of the Apostolic Gospel Church of Delano. The Magic has installed red pews in place of the side rows and several actors appear first as parishioners testifying from the theater audience. Playwright Luis Alfaro grew up both Catholic and Pentecostal and has a keen ear for the searchings and struggles of immigrants living in farm communities in California's Central Valley.

Commissioned through a partnership between the Magic Theatre and Oregon Shakespeare Companies, Part One of "This Golden State" is still a work in progress, with the author making frequent changes throughout this short run. At its strongest, we meet developed characters who are working themselves through a questioning of faith. This includes Sean San José as Elias, the returned homeboy now a pastor of his own church; Rod Gnapp as Brother Abel, the hardboiled, older church administrator; Sarah Nina Hayon as Elias's wife Esther, an outsider since she is only half-Mexican and who has questions of her own; and Wilma Bonet as Hermana Cantú, the pragmatic widow of the original spiritual leader of the church. There doesn't seem to be much point yet to Armando Rodríguez's role as Moises, while Carla Gallardo's Romie has an ending telescoped far in advance.

Of course, 'Delano' will change and grow through the years that follow, as Alfaro works through and completes his trilogy -- this is an exciting venture we are sure to be discussing at great length in the future. Right now, Part One: Delano is at times poignant and always laced with dark humor. In a time of drought, every character is thirsty for those answers that are so hard to find.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼

The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "This Golden State, Part One: Delano" Three Stars. It is not on a par with "Bruja" or "Oedipus, El Rey," two Alfaro works recently premiered at the Magic, but this is only the beginning of an ambitious project.

This Golden State, Part One: Delano 
The Magic Theatre
Fort Mason Center, Building D
San Francisco
Through June 14

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