Angel graces ATC's Spanish tale

By Mia Proli Gable

Arizona Daily Wildcat

What happens when an angel is the only help for culture clash and the conflicting desires of dreamers? This is the pivotal event in Arizona Theatre Company's world premier production of Milcha Sanchez-Scott's play "The Old Matador."

It is present day. A melted, rotting wedding cake sits in a wheelbarrow besides the chicken coop. It is night and a meteor shower alights the sky somewhere over the southwest. Cookie, Jessie and Father Steven stand at the end of the stage singing "Deep in the Heart of Texas." Later, a loud crash similar to a meteor plummeting to the earth precedes the arrival of a haggardly man with wings, an angel, disrupting the lives of the PeĽa family.

The angel (Fred Sugerman) seems to have the power to transform the characters into goddesses, singers and fluent Spanish speakers, all without saying a word, except for a few gasps of pig latin.

The angel appears as the PeĽa family is caught in a typical mid-life crisis with a twist. Instead of wanting racy sports cars and beautiful women, Enrique PeĽa (Ismael East Carlo) wants to return to Spain, his birthplace, to fulfill his life long dream of becoming a matador. An obvious tension develops between the characters as the play continues and the family members cater to the fulfillment of Enrique's dream while neglecting their own aspirations. Enrique's dream eventually overburdens his family and the unit begins to crumble under the pressure.

In addition to the struggle between Margarita (Ivonne Coll) and Enrique over the family savings, with which Enrique has purchased tickets to Spain, the PeĽa family has other problems. Daughter Jesse (Erica Ortega) has been dumped days before her wedding because she is told she can not love. And son Cookie (Valente Rodriguez) would rather be a Boy Scout than learn to fight the bulls of his fathers dreams.

Enrique's dreams are supported by his friends down at the night club, El Cid, where he works as a waiter. Here he is immersed in the Spanish culture with flamenco dancing and music performed live. No need for elaborate costuming with the powerful singing of Michele Mais accompanied by guitarist, Miguel Rodriguez.

The most intriguing part of "The Old Matador" is the script which is as funny as it is far fetching. The story comes to life with notable performances by Coll and Rodriguez. Ortega has some overly dramatic lines to chew on and for the most part carries them off without sounding too melodramatic.

The revolving set of the Alice Holsclaw Theatre effectively helps in transforming the scenes and the mood of the play from household and family life to Spanish nightclub alive with dreams.

"The Old Matador" effectively addresses the conflict between fulfilling one's dreams while adhering to cultural restraints. Although not always blessed with the presence of an angel, the play acts as a guide to dreamers by showing what happens when certain dreams are prioritized and others are neglected.

"The Old Matador" runs through Jan. 28 at the Temple of Music and Art. Tickets run $17-$26. For reservations or more information call 622-2823.

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