By Erik Luna
After 25 years, Luis Valdez’s hilarious and serious comedic drama “I Don’t Need to Show You No Stinking Badges,” is enjoying a successful run in Boyle Heights’ community theatre, Casa 0101.
Valdez, who is most famous for his feature films “La Bamba,” and “Zoot Suit,” which was also a play, first produced Badges in 1986. His main focus was the role of the Chicano in the movie industry.
The setting, a typical Monterey Park showbiz family living room, is complete with a Humphrey Bogart movie poster of “The treasure of Sierra Madre.” The main character, Buddy Villa, awakens to a vision of his son, Sonny, entering the living room and setting up shots like a director would in a movie set.
After the strange vision, Buddy’s wife Connie Villa, enters the faux living room dusting the various pieces of furniture to Ritchie Valens’ “Come on let’s go.”
Both Buddy and Connie have series of amusing bickering dialogue, as most married couples would, arguing about career paths. The bickering escalades when their distant son, Sonny, who had been studying at Harvard comes for an unexpected visit with his Japanese girlfriend Anita Sakai, played by Elizabeth Pan.
Alex Valdivia, who portrays the sometimes-seemingly-insane Sonny, sheds light on the greatest inspiration for the play. Sonny is tired, and a bit ashamed, of his parents playing “bit parts” or extra parts on movies. He’s upset that his race is always portrayed as the maid, or the gardener.
The play’s central theme of finding one’s identity and accepting it is largely shown through Valdivia’s character.
The play also focuses a great deal on last- minute life changes and how a family reacts to those changes. Valdivia marvelously gets lost in his character, who doesn’t know where the next step of his life will take him. It’s one of the few roles where a viewer has absolutely no idea where the character is going to go next.
The chemistry and dynamics between Daniel E. Mora and Carmelita Maldonado, who portray Buddy and Connie Villa, is clearly shown in how they react with one another. Maldonado, a former student of East Los Angeles College, showed an excellent field of expansion as she transitioned from comedy to drama in an instant.
Valdivia and his onstage girlfriend Anita’s turbulent relationship creates a great contrast to Mora and Maldonado’s playfully teasing relationship.
Mora’s playful quips throughout the play give the play a nice balance of comedy interspersed with drama. Mora and Maldonado’s best comedic moment can be seen in the start of Act Two.
Any Mexican-American will enjoy the Spanish slang used in the play, as well as the comedic facial expressions Maldonado makes during her scenes with Pan. A scene where the girlfriend meets the boyfriend’s mom can send shivers down anyone’s spine.
The play, which was directed by Hector Rodriguez, flowed pretty smoothly up until the climactic ending. The ending, which pits Sonny into a serious and problematic situation, fell through. It confused rather than solved any lingering questions.
Rodriguez seemed to struggle with setting up the last scenes, which makes for one giant flaw in a seemingly perfect play. The play seemed to jump from point A to point D at times, which confuses. Yet, the wonderful acting from these seasoned veterans surely makes up for it.
“I Don’t Need to Show You No Stinking Badges” is running at Casa 0101 on weekends until March 10. It has some foul and sexual language. Students and Boyle Heights residents can get a discount price of $15 at any given night.