“Santa Ana Toy Theater” A collaborative work by Adriana Sanchez Alexander, Chilo Te, Zuleica Zepeda
Written by Alina Mae Wilson
I recently attended The Long Road Today/El Largo Camino de Hoy in Santa Ana, which is a story centering on the community’s response to the death of a young boy playing in the streets of Santa Ana. With a large cast and crew running around determined to bring the audience different stories and experiences, the show is muddled and lacks decisive strength.
The play is a walk-through show meaning you’re standing the entire time. The production takes place outside, and it begins when each audience member receives a card with the image of their “tour guide” on it. Once the prologue concludes, everyone begins to walk through the show. It doesn’t matter which tour guide you get or what order you see the scenes in because the characters are fairly independent of each other–they are just different people showing varied responses to the same event. I want to give them their props, this is a pretty neat idea and it’s always cool to see something different. Unfortunately the execution is just not there.
The sound issues are distracting. I am all about suspension of disbelief, but it really takes away from the current performance, when I can hear the scenes going on at the other side of the courtyard. Things are spaced pretty far apart as they are. I suppose if placed inside a building and the audience walks from room to room instead of yard to yard some sort of sound proofing could be placed into effect, but that might make it harder for the audience to travel without smashing into each other. It might just be one of the hazards of putting on a play in this format. Not sure what the solution to this particular problem is.
There were puppets. Several puppets. Personally, I could do without a few of the puppets. But they seem to go over well with the children. I tried to keep an eye on them to see how they were enjoying things, and it seems to really be a 50/50 shot as far as how they cope. Some kids laugh, others sort of pace around in circles during the more tedious parts of the show, despite the actors urging them to come forward and dance at surprising and infrequent intervals. If you are worried about whether or not your little ones will be scarred for life from such gory material, don’t be. You know your kid best of course, but the fact of the matter is that the actual death scene is done with a car made from a poster cut out. The subject matter is very dramatic and there are people crying but I didn’t notice any children getting particularly freaked out by anything going on.
My main problem with the show is it’s so undecided. It wants to be both light and dark, both life and death. Moments that should be filled with pain and anguish fall flat because the actor seems to be holding back (possibly because she knows that another scene is taking place fifty feet away) and moments that should be lighthearted and entertaining are for the most part sporadic and confusing. There was a vague outline of an overarching theme but for the most part it was pretty nondescript. Since the story is so spread out over many years the ending I felt sort of comes out of nowhere.
As far as comprehension goes, if you do not speak Spanish/you have relatives that don’t speak English I am sure you’ll be able to understand the gist of what is going on. It is mostly just a matter of patience. Do you have the patience to stand through a minute or two of dialogue in a language that you aren’t fluent in? If so you will be just fine.
All in all, if you want to educate your child on the dangers of playing in the street, take them to this show. If you want to familiarize yourself a bit with the culture of Santa Ana, or if you want to brush up on your Spanish, or just want to watch a play in a format you might not have seen before, go to this show. For the purpose of pure entertainment though, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Side note : Certain actors were particularly believable. I really enjoyed the performances of Selene Peréz who plays Luz, Bryan Alejandro Perez who plays Yound Salvador, and Samuel Matthews who plays one of the Andrés boys. Well done to all three.
Location & Dates : City of Santa Ana Civic Center Plaza September 18th,2014-September 28,201
Admission : Free
Check out the plot synopsis and ticket information here:http://www.scr.org/calendar/view?id=7331
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