By Javier Lopez
The play, “Mariela in the Desert,” got a standing ovation on opening night thanks to the actors’ beautiful performances and perfect stage direction.
It is a charming play filled with anger, tragedy, despair, love and sacrifice. These themes come together in one house in the middle of the desert, where dreams are dried up.
“The desert is God’s canvas” repeats Vance Valencia during his performance in Mariela in the Desert as Jose Salvatierra.
Salvatierra is an artist who is eager to create an artistic movement that will forever engrave his name in art history and is willing to do whatever it takes to make his dream come true.
Valencia perfectly depicted the exhausted emotions of an artist who has the passion and talent to paint, but no vision to make his art meaningful and truthful.
Valencia stares at an empty canvas, then screams out of frustration, the sound of his pain and sadness echoes across the theatre.
“When I’m really going, I use you, I use my daughter, the audience” said Valencia regarding his strong performance.
The screams of despair throughout the play after moments of grief enlighten the audience and connect them to their own emotions .
Actor Rachel Gonzalez who plays the role of Mariela Salvatierra, stole the show with her strength and resilience.
The longing in Gonzalez’s eyes as she steps into the spotlight and tells her story about a mother struggling to keep her family intact creates an intimacy between the audience and herself.
“To me, it is more about the people that are moved by it.” said Gonzalez.
Her intimacy coincides perfectly with the coziness of the theatre in which actors are only a few feet away from the audience, making the connection between the actors and the audience stronger.
Although, the actors have little to work with on stage, this was no problem for Kenneth Lopez who plays the role of Carlos Salvatierra.
Lopez brings the innocence of a child who knows nothing but love. The performance Lopez gave was astonishing, giving the audience insight on what it is like to live with a disability.
His performance perfectly coalesces with Vannessa Vasquez who plays the role of Blanca Salvatierra, the daughter of Mariela and Jose.
Blanca Salvatierra’s hopes and dreams of a life away from the desert are perfectly depicted in the way Vasquez carries herself throughout the play.
Her soft – spoken and passionate voice in moments of uncertainty and the passion in her voice when she speaks of love and art strengthen the sincerity of the play.
“It inspired me to follow my passion for the arts and strive to be like my mother.” says Guzman.
Denise Blasor, who plays the role of Olivia Salvatierra, brings a very kind and welcoming aura to the play.
Randy Vasquez who plays the role of Professor Adam Lovitz, Blanca’s lover, also brings a fundamental piece to the play.
Vasquez gives an incredible performance as he tries to show the Salvatierra family that his love for Blanca Salvatierra is pure while admiring the artwork of Jose Salvatierra.
The careful movements Vasquez makes as he holds or comes close to Blanca Salvatierra proves how in love he is.
Lovitz also sits in distress after a long night of arguments and realizations, completely worn out. Yet the look in his face tells that he is ready for whatever comes next.
Director Robert Beltran gives perfect stage direction. Every movement that the actors make is filled with emotion and meaning.
The playwright Karen Zacarías creates the perfect story in which every single question is answered by the end of the play.
The play will have a five – week run at CASA 0101. It will be playing every Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m and Sundays at 5 p.m from Nov. 4 to Dec. 11. There will be no shows on the 25, 26, and 27 of November because of Thanksgiving.
General Admission tickets are priced at $25 but student and seniors tickets are $20. A discounted price of $15 will be given to Boyle Heights residents with identification card or any other documents that show proof of Boyle Heights residency.
CASA 0101 is located at 2012 East First Street, Boyle Heights, CA 90033.