KPBS AIRDATE: May 01, 2004
Look upon the ruins of a Mayan temple and be inspired by greatness. That’s how it feels when you enter the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Design wizard Giulio Cesare Perrone has recreated a majestic edifice, with stone carvings and an ancient ball court. When a desert scene is required, sand streams down from the eaves. In a futuristic setting, the building is transformed into a neo-Mayan palace, adorned with modernist abstractions of the historic forms. This is the glorious backdrop to the world premiere of “Earthquake Sun,” the latest creation of writer/director Luis Valdez.
The acclaimed Chicano playwright, who has broken new theatrical ground so many times, is at it again, crossing cultures and exploring the history of the Americas. This time he’s melding the magical realism of his ancestry with the science fiction of his current culture. All in the service of a love story that transcends time. While teaching us a great deal about Mayan customs and ceremonies, Valdez also seems to be confronting his mortality, concerning himself with legacies, with fathers and sons, with what can and cannot be passed on genetically and behaviorally. Ironically, his real-life son, Kinan Valdez, plays all the paternal roles in the piece.
Valdez has so much to say; he seems to be trying to squeeze it all into this one play, which takes place in three millennia: 732 A.D. at the peak of the Mayan power; 2012, when coyotes are still endangering illegal immigrants in ferrying them across the border. and in a clone-filled 3312 A.D.
The central character time-travels, to find the two lost parts of himself: his twin and his one true love. In each scenario, each millennium, he meets — in different guises — his brother, his father, his mate and himself. He is the solar lord Jaguar Kan, by turns a warrior, an immigrant-smuggler, a player of the ancient (and future) hip-swiveling game of pitz-ball. The play’s structure is more complex than seems necessary to tell the tale. Valdez the writer needs more editing input from Valdez the director. The ultimate message here seems to be Follow your heart, not your head. And let the next generation live and reproduce as it will; technological advances notwithstanding, one can’t really clone oneself after all.
Valdez has marshaled all his forces to create these worlds — a stellar design team, esteemed choreographer John Malashock as movement coach and a chameleon cast, with especially captivating performances by Linda Castro, Kinan Valdez and Sandra Ruiz.
One has to see a world premiere as Version 1.0, with many upgrades to follow. Valdez still has time, if not to clone himself, then to shape his legacy to last, as he would say, through the zuvuyas of time.
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.