Death in dos lenguas

Dia de los Muertos

Mariajose Taibo, Errol Ramos and Iryna Gomez transport viewers into the ghostly world of their imagination in Dia de los Muertos.

Mariajose Taibo, Errol Ramos and Iryna Gomez transport viewers into the ghostly world of their imagination in Dia de los Muertos.

Photo By David Robert

Americans have an interesting tendency to forget history very quickly—a trait people of other nationalities disdain. In most cultures, the elderly are respected and revered for their wisdom, and the dead are gone but never forgotten. Such is the idea behind Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, a play presented by Brown Eyes Too Spanish Theater and Nevada Performing Arts.The Day of the Dead is a traditional celebration observed in Mexico and several other countries, usually on the first or second day of November. The play of the same name tells the origins of the holiday through the voices of three children: Tez, Cristine and Julie, played by Errol Ramos, Mariajose Taibo and Iryna Gomez, respectively.

The unique thing about this production is that it is bilingual. Tez, the knowing storyteller in the group, speaks entirely in Spanish. He asks his two friends, Cristine, a bilingual interpreter, and Julie, an American, to employ their imaginations and enter the world of the ancient Aztecs. The story unfolds, using two languages in unique and artful fashion. No audience will be left out.

Thus we are introduced to Aztec music and dance, accompanied by glorious costumes and a desert landscape. We have entered completely into the children’s imaginations.

The dancers are Mariano Lemus, Luis Torres, Fernando Valenzuela and Isidoro Leon; they are extremely talented and put on a visually and musically beautiful performance. Isaac Castaneda’s performance as the Aztec priest is the perfect blend of intrigue and fright, as his shaking of the “magic stick” summons the god of war and leads the way to a sacrificial offering.

Director Anna Maria Vega and coordinator Mario de la Rosa describe Dia de los Muertos as a portrayal of the change of culture, from the time of the conquest of the Spaniards in Mexico.

“This change encompassed religion, architecture, government … everything,” said de la Rosa. “But the people will continue the tradition to remember their past and honor their dead.”

The story focuses on the ancient idea that everyone dies three deaths: The first death occurs with the physical body, the second occurs when the soul leaves the body, and the third death occurs when the remaining loved ones have finally forgotten them. The point of the Dia de los Muertos celebration is that the final death never occurs—the life is forever celebrated. Whether it is with the ancient Aztecs, the conquering Spaniards or modern-day townspeople, the play concentrates on the ongoing tradition to celebrate the lives lived, rather than mourning their deaths.

Ramos is a delight to watch as Tez. His enthusiasm for imagination and for diving into an ancient ghost story is infectious. The childlike wonder with which he leads the audience is also very funny at times.

Dia de los Muertos is ideal for families. It is a complete celebration of culture, music, dancing and history, and audiences of all ages will enjoy this short but sweet performance with cultural impact.