122. Victory Gardens presents the world premiere of MOJADA.
“Medea” is the Greek legend of a betrayed woman’s ultimate revenge. Playwright Luis Alfaro modernizes the classic with modern twists. Alfaro pens a tale of a Mexican family running away to Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. Alfaro cleverly fuses together elements from the tragic myth with immigration issues. Medea is a seamstress working in a makeshift sweatshop. The neighborhood believes she is an enchantress for her sewing ability. Her husband Jason has caught the eye of the real estate developer, Armeda. Medea and Armeda have very different ideas for Jason’s future.
For a tragedy, Alfaro surprisingly writes Act 1 with a light tone. Under the direction of Chay Yew, the comedy cackles primarily delivered by Socorro Santiago (Tita) and Charin Alvarez (Josefina). Santiago acts as narrator and Medea’s nursemaid. She assimilates the audience into the culture shock and community of Mexicans in Pilsen. The delightful Santiago thrives on the neighborhood gossip. Her telenovela fascination sets the foundation for real life drama to unfold. Her mutterings start as wisecracks and move into prophecy. Santiago effectively goes from gut-busting hilarity to gut-punching poignancy. The fast-talking Alvarez adds a colorful take on life in Pilsen. Alvarez amusingly crosses boundaries as she talks about her sex life. Her instant familiarity with Medea is funny because she is the relatable, nosy neighbor. The dialogue has a gals-on-the-back-porch naturalness.
Alfaro starts his story out slow and playfully. Since “Medea” is a well-known character, Alfaro’s choice to wade in is an interesting one. He lulls us into the lovingly, struggling casa de la familia. Scenic Designer Yu Shibagaki creates the worn back-side of a two flat. We know the family is poor but thankful for their meager surroundings. It feels like home. Then, Alfaro flashes back to the journey to this place. Santiago’s riveting storytelling is enhanced by Projection Designer Liviu Pasare’s visual imagery. We hear and see the sacrifices made for the American dream. Learning about her past makes Medea’s present even more heartbreaking.
Sandra Delgado (Medea) delivers a soulful performance. Delgado exudes a delicate vulnerability. She clutches her shawl in this ongoing gesture of needing shelter from external forces. This is not the familiar Medea of folklore. The audience wants to hug Delgado or at the very least, pay her competitively for a dress. We are charmed by her protective husband Juan Francisco Villa (Jason). He’s so sweet to her. Then, just when we are settled into our telenovela, Sandra Marquez (Armeda) arrives. Marquez plays shrew with unapologetic fervor. The contrast between her and the rest of the women is jaw-dropping. Marquez gives off a puppy-killing Cruella de Vil to Delgado’s lapdog. Theatrically, Marquez’s attack is disconcerting. Reality-wise, the featured immigration hardships are unconscionable.
MOJADA is compelling theatre. Alfaro’s transition from lighthearted to somber is abrupt. Scenes in Act 2 topple on top of each to get to the drama. Alfaro spends so much time establishing culture and community that the actual Greek tragedy is squished into an uneven Act 2. Still, MOJADO is an unforgettable expose on immigration and Medea. Knowing the backstory on both is an awakening to the truth behind the gossip.
Running Time: Two hours and twenty minutes includes an intermission
At Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln
Based on Euripides’ “Medea”
Written by Luis Alfaro
Directed by Chay Yew
Tuesdays*, Wednesdays*, Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30pm
Wednesday, July 31st at 2pm
Saturdays at 4pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru August 11th
Buy Tickets at www.victorygardens.org
*No performances on July 23rd and 31st at 7:30pm