Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
March 20, 2015
Sophocles comes to the barrio. Well, not the ancient Greek playwright himself, but his most famous, 2500 year-old creation, “Oedipus Rex,” one of the most profound and enduring tragedies of Western literature.
In “Oedipus El Rey,” acclaimed L.A. playwright Luis Alfaro has brought the ancient story up to date, re-populating it with cholos in California prisons and communities. This is the tragic tale of a man in search of his destino , or destiny. But cruel fate has doomed him.
A blind seer predicts that Oedipus will kill his father and marry his mother. Much is done to avoid the dire prediction. Oedipus is sent away immediately after his birth. He becomes a petty thief and winds up incarcerated, but has big plans upon his release. And when, through a prison connection, he meets Jocasta, the recently widowed Queen of the barrio, he knows he’s on his way. He works his way into her heart and the onto the local throne.
But Oedipus, AKA El Maldecido , the accursed, will fulfill the prophecy and suffer the consequences of aiming too high and trying to write his own story, rejecting the traditional ways of his gente , his people – the belief in God, curanderos and místicos .
This timeless parable of destiny and fate, faith and free will, makes a brilliant transition to contemporary So-Cal Chicano culture.
In a gorgeously rhythmic, stylized approach, San Diego Rep founding artistic director Sam Woodhouse helms an outstanding and versatile cast, headed by charismatic Lakin Valdez and stunning Mónica Sánchez, whose meetup is electrifying and whose nude love scene is erotic and beautiful.
The set, sound and lighting, the projections, choreography and fight direction, meld into one seamless, breathtaking whole, one heart-rending tale of passion, hubris and the dire violence-riddled fate of so many Latino men.
“Can we tell new stories ?, ” the gang members ask at the end of the play – just before the prison locks clamp shut on them again.
We’re left to wonder if the bars, the chains, the cycle can be broken.
“Oedipus El Rey ” runs through March 29, at San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
©2015 PAT LAUNER