Rupert Reyes' bilingual comedy 'Petra's Pecado' hits the audience with Mexican culture like a well-wrapped enchilada washed down with a frosty margarita
Reviewed by Patti Hadad, Fri., July 29, 2005
Dougherty Arts Center, through Aug. 7
La Virgen de Guadalupe has headphones on underneath her rich blue-green mantle connected to an iPod on her pink tunic. She might be praying for los pobres, or she might be rockin' out to Latino pop divas Anasol and Shakira. Such miracles occur in Teatro Vivo's revival of a 10-year-old play Petra's Pecado. In short video projections on the Dougherty Arts Center stage, we see La Virgen breaking out of her mold, innocently shooing away a fly and flashing her Mona Lisa smile. It's nothing short of miraculous to see the maiden of 15 appear on stage wearing blue jeans and a chic cross-knot camisole.
Petra Dominguez, the heroine of Rupert Reyes' comedic trilogy (Petra's Pecado, Petra's Cuento, and Petra's Sueno), is a scheming wife and mother who runs a tortilla factory. In Petra's Pecado, she has sinned, and the new priest at her church decides that her penance will be to direct a play based on the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The hilarity ensues when Petra (Laura Vela Grayson) casts the play with her husband Rafael (Rupert Reyes), her two sidekicks Tacha (San Juanita Alcala) and Clara (Alejandra Murga), and the foul-mouthed Chano (Rudy Sandoval).
Los viejos, or senior citizens, have a time of it disputing over acting exercises. But Tina Tamayo (Lisa Trejo McKendrick), Petra's bogus-Chanel-dressed competition in the tortilla business, "meta la pata," as the Spanish expression goes, meaning "put her foot in it." Petra's fervent prayer awakens la Virgen for help.
La Virgen's appearance is neither surprising nor sacrilegious in this case. It's apparent that saints and Catholic deities are so alive in the lives of these people that they might as well be walking the earth lending a hand. The scenes in which lost souls such as Petra, Chano, or Clara have mano-a-mano conversations with the young Virgen are heartfelt, but they feel long and could be downright off-putting if you were an atheist.
Immaculately Mexican-American in every way imaginable, Reyes' play isn't exclusive. The overall theatrics and common Spanglish make the plot easy to follow even if you don't speak Spanish. And you can quickly pick up some spicy cuss words by the cackles surrounding you.
"It wouldn't be a Teatro Vivo play if there wasn't a raffle for a T-shirt in the intermission," said an usher. You get the sense from being in the audience that everyone is part of la familia.
Rupert Reyes' bilingual Petra trilogy strikes the audience with Mexican culture like a well-wrapped enchilada washed down with a frosty margarita. In short, it has you full with laughter.