THE DREAMERS: A BLOODLINEby the Cara Mia Artistic Ensemble
Cara Mia Theatre Company
Directed by David Lozano
Assistant Director / Movement / Choreography – Karen Robinson
Original Music Score / Choreography of “Rumble Shake”– S-Ankh Rasa
Scenic Design – Jesse Zarazaga
Lighting Design – Linda Blase
Costume Design – Ella Rose Haag and Samantha Miller
Photography / Film / Projections / Sound Design – Fabian Aguirre
Photos by Fabián Aguirre
Reviewed Performance: 5/31/2013
Reviewed by Rachel Elizabeth Khoriander, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The first of a trilogy, The Dreamers: A Bloodline charts the collective and individual histories of several immigrants on their path from a politically-ravaged El Salvador to the United States. Along the way, the characters experience the emotions evoked by a shared journey fraught with danger. They fight, they console one another, they have moments of complete distrust and they show glimpses of true bravery. In short, they are human. This seems in direct contrast to the perilous creatures with which they have to contend, a whole host of sadistic and parasitic kidnappers, drug lords and sex traffickers. Lozano handles the atrocities faced in a tactful manner but it is still extremely difficult to watch some of the horrifically violent scenes throughout this work, and there are many.
This leads to one of the serious weaknesses of The Dreamers: repetition. Repetition can be used effectively, and there are certain moments in The Dreamers: A Bloodline that are fraught with poetry and ritual, where repetition is used to powerfully emphasize the importance of a word or idea. However, these moments of absolute beauty - of language, of symbol, of emotion - are undermined by constant repetition of virtually everything else, both important and unimportant. The violence that is so difficult to watch? Well, never fear, one soon finds oneself anticipating exactly what is about to happen. The women will always cry out to God for mercy before they are defiled and murdered and the men, well, they'll be shot. Wash, rinse, repeat.
In addition, the eleven individuals that make up the cast play multiple characters, many of whom meet with gruesome ends, but there is a severe lack of differentiation between most of these characters, both in acting technique and in costuming. It's possible that this ambiguity is purposeful and intended to blend characters into a sort of "everyman", but in the end it proves confusing and somewhat jarring to be faced with what we first identify as a reanimated corpse before realizing it's supposed to be an entirely different character. For me, one of the most unsettling examples of this is when, at the end of the play, one of the women appears to be killed by a character who appears to be her own husband... even though her husband perished much earlier in the play. More differentiation in costuming and hair styling would help immensely with this confusion. While certain characters don accurate and interesting El Salvadorian clothing and are therefore memorable, the majority of the peripheral characters wear the same T-shirts, tank tops, and hair styles in every scene. Slight variations among these characters would hugely impact clarity of the plot.
The actors themselves run the gamut from excellent to average. Priscilla Rice and Ruben Carrazana deserve particular recognition for their constantly powerful and easily distinguishable characters.
Frida Espinosa-Muller is very distinctive and expressive with her hand gestures and body movements, and Ana Gonzalez is quite effective as the young mother who attempts to take her child with her on the journey from El Salvador. Stephanie Cleghorn, as the former prostitute, is perhaps most gifted at getting across the connection felt between the three women who are at the heart of the plot.
The human moments between the characters are perhaps the most engaging parts of the performance but they are marred somewhat by translation issues. The Dreamers: A Bloodline is written in an amalgam of Spanish and English, and while one does not have to know Spanish to follow the basic plot, many of the more humanizing and humorous moments remain obscured for non-Spanish speakers. Because of this, many of the characters are potentially more two-dimensional than they should be.
The writing in The Dreamers: A Bloodline is quite lovely and lyrical in many places but occasionally seems like poetry has been forced upon it. Similarly, the production itself seems part movement piece, part slam poetry and part straight theater, and some of these are more effective than others. Some of the movement, such as the birthing of children near the beginning of the play, is compelling. Similarly, the choreography of certain gestures throughout the play leads to several brief glimpses of what appear to be paintings, which are in keeping with themes found within the play. Other pieces of choreography, however, seem unnecessary and forced. The “Rumble Shake” and most of the scenes involving soliloquies performed by The Drug Lord border on frivolous. The idea presented in these scenes is not frivolous, but the pedestrian presentation (huge projected blinking eye, disembodied robotic voice) and simplistic choreography (men beating sticks against each other in non-complex patterns) make these scenes appear trite and this posturing is only amplified by, again, multiple repetitions.
In contrast to the conflicted aspects of the production, the scenic design, lighting design, musical score and projection are inventive and phenomenally cohesive. Jesse Zarazaga's scenic design is movable and minimalistic but extremely versatile. The formation of multiple complex objects, such as a train, a cage or a cart, from disparate, simplistic pieces as a chain-link fence, barrels or huge steel boxcar is nothing short of mesmerizing. Fabian Aguirre's sound design and projections and S-Ankh Rasa's musical score enhance the dreamy mood of the piece while drawing attention to themes inherent within, while Linda Blase's lighting design magnifies the mood, emphasizes the projections and provides relief from some of the graphic violence.
I plan to see the next two installments of the trilogy if only to experience the scenic, lighting, and sound design. I have come to have a great deal of respect for the artistry of Director David Lozano, and I see a great deal of brilliance and potential in the overall story arc of the trilogy, which only adds to my intent. Given a bit more attention from its creators, I believe that The Dreamers: A Bloodline could be utterly quixotic and bitterly incisive. At the moment, though, it could use some more honing.
Cara Mia Theatre Company
Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak Street
Dallas, TX 75204
Runs through June 15th
Performances are Thursday–Saturday at 8:00 pm.
On Thursday, all tickets are $12.00. Friday-Saturday, they are $16.00 & $12.00 for students and seniors (age 55 & better).
Group tickets for all nights are $10.00 for 10 or more.
For info go to www.caramiatheatre.org, call the box office at 214-717-5297.