Thursday, January 26, 2023

Not Perfect Daughter Is Perfectly Fun and Expertly Done

Cast of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter (Nate Watters)

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Through 2/5/23
Director Juliette Carrillo directed one of the few plays that stay stuck in my mind for many years. Way back in 2011, Carrillo directed The Brothers Size at Seattle Rep. Images from that play instantly come to mind when I think of that production. Carrillo helmed a designer crew of sets, lights, sound, and movement/choreography that melded together perfectly. The trio of actors was magical.
Now, Carrillo has directed another play that may have that same lasting power for me. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is not a perfect play, in that it might need a bit of trimming from a jam-packed script, but this production is magical. From the amazingly simple but amazingly stunning set design of a massive beaded curtain by Efren Delgadillo Jr., to the costumes by Danielle Nieves that fit the actors within an inch of their lives (with an eye-popping quinceañera dress!). From the light by Robert J. Aguilar that went from tenderly subtle to a blinding crescendo and the sound design and compositions of John Nobori. Again, she has indeed assembled a fantastic cast of actors.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is about a 15-year-old Júlia (who ages to about 17 during the play) who has just lost her beloved but maybe-slightly-mysterious older sister and is trying to cope with what that means to the rest of her life. While surrounded by family, the relationships are not at all comforting. Júlia mother (Amá played by Jazmín Corona) might love her, but most of the time she seems as toxic as it might get. Júlia’s father (played by Eddie Martinez) is remote and removed.
Much of the play, as written by Isaac Gomez who adapted the novel by Erika L. Sánchez, focuses on Júlia’s internal perceptions. It is through her eyes that we meet her sister, Olga (played by Sofia Raquel Sánchez), who is perfect as far as Júlia thinks. So Júlia is like the ugly-duckling sister who seems not to be wanted.
Now that Olga is dead, Júlia realizes that she never got to know the “real” Olga and embarks on a mission to find out more. That journey is the riveting process we, the audience, are taken on and what she ultimately finds changes her goals, her perceptions of her family and sister, and even how she chooses to live her life.
The ensemble cast is pitch-perfect in each and every role. Each actor has to play a number of roles, switch costumes, and chameleon-like, become someone else. The ensemble is key, but the glue is Karen Rodriguez, a company member at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago. She is onstage every minute of this 2 ½ hour production.
Rodriguez is funny, honest, and surprising. However she conceived it, either exploring with Carrillo or understanding the character and making her all her own, her line deliveries were sometimes hysterical, even when the actual words wouldn’t have made it funny with any other actor.
Rodriguez as Júlia and her teenage friend, Lorena (Leslie Sophia Pérez), were so convincing that they never made me question their ages. They both straddled the thin line between vulnerable and confused young teens and sassy know-it-all teens and often brought the house down in laughter. Adding new school-mate Juanga (Marco Antonio Tzunux), as a mix of LGBTQ and confidence (not to mention the skin-tight jeans, boots, earrings, and hair), the teens help Júlia find her answers.
I’m no stranger to the talents of delightful and locally-trained actor Sofia Raquel Sánchez, who brought ethereal grace to Olga. Michael Monicatti as a sweet but almost-clueless boyfriend (very different from his recent portrayal in Teenage Dick) and Aaron Blakely as a kind school teacher round out the ensemble.
The team works like a well-timed watch and delivers a story that can open your heart and tickle your funny bone at the same time. It’s definitely worth a ticket!
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