Roosters: In The Midst of Poverty, Beauty
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., Jan. 26, 2001
Roosters: In The Midst Of Poverty, Beauty
Auditorium on Waller Creek,
through February 10
Running Time: 1 hr, 40 min
They strut and preen. Feathered fighters, equipped with weapons, spurs and blades, by men who imbue them with a value beyond what nature provides, lay bets on them, project on the birds their own egos, their own ideals, their own wishes, victories and defeats. If the cock wins, the man wins. If the cock loses...
Many kinds of roosters appear in this Different Stages production of Milcha Sanchez-Scott's play, not all of the fowl variety. The first we see is Marco Noyola's Gallo, swaggering onto the stage, the patriarch of the Gonzalez family returning home after seven years in prison to claim Zapata, his tufted and wattled champion, who follows him in the person of a balletic Jeremy Hays. Soon after, we meet Roland Gonzales' Hector, Gallo's son, bitter, resentful, and disappointed in his father's legacy of violence and the menial job he is forced to perform in the fields. It would not be giving much away to say that these two men will clash, and clash they do. Trying to keep them from their obvious confrontation are Myrna Cabello's Juana, a loving if distracted mother who projects an inner beauty and innocent trust, and Elissa Linares' daughter Angela, who seems to live under the house porch and wears flimsy angel's wings because of her affinity with the saints. A real standout is Yvonne Flores-Ceballos' aunt Chata, a boozy and heavyset-yet-seductive woman who clomps aggressively around like an animal in a barnyard. With her effective comic timing and lack of inhibition, Flores-Ceballos steals almost every scene in which she appears.
Sanchez-Scott's script and the actors, including René Alvarado as Adan, a hanger-on whose inability to speak English cannot mask his deep feelings of love and admiration for this family of dysfunction, are quite enjoyable. However, director Mary Alice Carnes seems to be presenting two entirely different productions, schizophrenic in their numerous contrasts. Interesting staging, such as Gallo's entrance and his introduction of the dancelike Zapata, is followed by actors doing little more than pacing back and forth across the space of the Auditorium on Waller Creek. A striking costume, such as Chata's low-cut, lacy décolletage and yellow, impossible spike heels, is followed by one that makes little visual sense (Angela's cut-out angel's wings or Zapata's single feather and tan Danskin). The dry clay color of the set works well to indicate the parched landscape, but the set is so crowded in some areas and so open in others, it offers little room for inventive staging. The corrido and Tejano music during the pre-show and intermission also works well, but during scene changes no music is used, and we are treated to the sounds of clomping feet and moving furniture. Most distracting, all but one of the voices is distinctly Hispanic in character, and the one that isn't most definitely should be.
At various points, caged live roosters are brought onstage. Without question, this family is living in poor conditions, but the introduction of the birds added something that I wish was more evident throughout the course of the evening: that there can be great beauty in the midst of poverty. The characters don't seem to realize this even when it's in front of their eyes; in fact, this seems to be the point -- no matter the setting, the human spirit is a beautiful thing if only we will recognize it. There is likewise great potential in this Different Stages production, much of which can be glimpsed, but still more of which is hidden away.