Central Works’ closes its 2016 season with new play, “Into the Beautiful North“, written by nationally known playwright Karen Zacarías and based on the novel by Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea. The script is inspired by the classic Hollywood western “The Magnificent Seven,” which was adapted from Kurosawa’s, “The Seven Samurai”. With the multitude of theatre choices in the Bay Area it’s hard to find one that illustrates the life of Latinos. This one fills that void, at least for a short term.
The main character, Nayeli (Samanta Yunuen Cubias) and friend/boss Tacho (Rudy Guerrero) are harassed by a pair of drug dealers at their work, “La Mano Callida”. A cheeky name referencing the stereotype that all gay men have limp wrists. When Nayeli tells her aunt Irma (Leticia Duarte) who’s running for Mayor of the incident, it dawns on her what needs to be done. They need to go to United States to find Seven Magnificent Mexican Men to bring back and help defend the land. All the local men have gone to the United States to find work including Nayeli’s father who she aims to find first.
The journey begins with Nayali, Tacho and her best friend Vampi (Kitty Torres). There’s a lot of humor in the play without shying away from an honest look at the outside politics that are a detriment to the peaceful life the characters could have if they didn’t exist. The corrupt police force, border patrol cover-ups, sexism, homophobism, and internalized racism. It’s also a coming of age story as Nayali and Vampi go through the angst of teenage hood. They not only find the men they’re looking for but their strength. They realize they don’t have to define themselves by their past or current situations. Nayali finds out her dad is not who she thought he was and Vampi is a recent orphan who feels she’s alone in the world leading her to cynicsm.
A poignant part in the storytelling is the pointed out fact that immigration is often out of desperate necessity. As they search for these Seven Magnificent Mexican Men we hear little tidbits of what the men they end up auditioning want in life and why they left. They just want to be able to make a living, be with their family, and maybe some fishing. In other words, they just want to be safe and have options. Leaving your home is not always a desirable choice. Unfortunately, undocumented immigrants are vilified for trying to survive.
The theatre did an excellent job in working with such a small space. The audience seating covered three sides of the room. The stage direction allowed them to make a connection with each side and the actors didn’t shy away from making eye contact with audience members. It was an interesting experience and worked extremely well. The actors were excellent and although there was a stumble here and there, to be that close-up to the audience and still remain in character is impressive. You have time to catch this wonderful show as it has been EXTENDED Through Nov 20!
Berkeley City Club
2315 Durant Avenue
$30 online at centralworks.org or $30 – $15 sliding scale at the door.Previews and Thursdays are pay-what-you-can at the door.
For more information:
Call 510.558.1381 or visit centralworks.org
A National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere