Orange County Theatre Reviews

“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, 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 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 not there.

The sound issues are distracting, and it takes away from the current performance when I hear the scenes going on 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 soundproofing could be placed into effect, but that might make it harder for the audience to travel without smashing into each other. It might 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. 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 seemed to really be a 50/50 shot regarding how they coped. Some kids laugh, and others 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 is that the actual death scene is done with a car made from a poster cut out. The subject matter is theatrical, and people are crying, but I didn’t notice any children getting particularly freaked out by anything going on.

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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). 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 over many years, I felt the ending sort of comes out of nowhere. 

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, brush up on your Spanish, or watch a play in a format you might not have seen before, go to this show. For pure entertainment, though, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Side note: Certain actors were particularly believable. I enjoyed the performances of Selene Peréz, who plays Luz, Bryan Alejandro Perez, who plays Young Salvador, and Samuel Matthews, who plays one of the Andrés boys. Well done to all three.

7/10

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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