Coming into the Angela Peralta Theater on Saturday, October 12, the doors to the theater remained closed. I asked my girlfriend if we were late, as I wasn’t wearing a watch. I knew we were 10 minutes before curtain time. “You are fine,” said the usher. “Just walk down here and turn right.” As we walked down a long, dark hallway, I wondered if this was some sort of early Halloween or Day of the Dead prank. But, no, we were being ushered ONTO the stage!
What a feeling! I of course turned around, looked out at that gorgeous theater, and hammed it up a bit. My moment of fame on the stage! The stage was set up very simply, with several folding tables, a few props, a large television screen and video camera, and hooks hanging from the catwalks overhead. There were bleachers set up on the stage, facing this smaller performance area. Cool! We took a seat.
As we waited, a guy dressed as a painter used a roller on an extension pole to paint some very cool scenes. Then, just before the play started, he painted over it all. Heartbreak. But very interesting. (Video below) They ended up using the white wall as a projection screen during the performance. And the dog that just happened to be wandering around the stage before the play, dovetailing seamlessly with the evening’s performance—pure serendipity.
The play we were about to see was entitled, “Baños Roma,” by the internationally renowned theater troupe, Teatro Línea de Sombra. I knew it was the story of José Ángel (Mantequilla) Nápoles, the famous Cuban-Mexican boxer (career of 78 wins and 7 losses, with 55 wins by knockout), interwoven with the story of the horrible violence and cultural illness that took over Ciudad Juárez and the “Baños Roma” neighborhood. I am most interested in the latter, so was looking forward to the play. It did not disappoint. In fact, the actors and production company received a standing ovation! We were all so incredibly moved by the performance that people hung around, talking, watching. The ushers actually had to ask people to leave!
What made this performance so incredible? Of course, the narrative: both stories are incredibly powerful and emotive, and they were woven together seamlessly, dovetailing and building on one another. What really stood out to me, however, was the unbelievable creativity of the performance. With an extreme minimalism of props and sets, we were taken inside the experiences of the “lost women” of Ciudad Juárez. Sawdust on the floor served first as a dance floor, then as a map of the city on which to draw the layout of streets. A punching bag was filled with fabrics; unpacking it showed clothing and memories. Actors took turns in extreme closeup to a camera, and spoke to us via large screen projection. Scales were laid down on the floor to represent weigh-ins and weight categories for boxers. We listened to the metamorphosis of an amazingly talented throat-voice actor, and then he also played the sax. A live band came in at one point, during a drinking party on stage. A can of white spray was shot into the air to represent snow falling on a dead dog, the memory of a woman in the story. Another woman died, or was killed, in front of us, and the dramatic simplicity was heartbreaking. Punching bags hung from the catwalk transformed into poles for exotic dancing. It was the best of a Mexican performance—raw, poetic, ferocious—and the best of creative minimalism. (Photos below)
Thank you, CULTURA Mazatlán, for bringing this here! And for 120 pesos a ticket, you permitted me to pay for my friend!
Línea de la Sombra is a traveling troupe, so if you get a chance to watch them, don’t miss it!