Sacramento, CA 95814
Latino plays from California can be a singular experience: a heady mix of immigration and assimilation, religion and family values, underground life and big dreams. All of these elements make the Sacramento Theatre Company’s current show, the first local production of Los Angeles playwright Luis Alfaro’s Electricidad, a real treat.
Electricidad is heady theater. Its powerful story is consciously modeled on ancient Greek tragedy—Electra, among others. Alfaro’s setting is his hometown, where a tough girl named Electricidad is mourning her father, El Rey, a fallen gang leader.
“Mourning” is too mild a word. Electricidad has placed her father’s body in the front yard for the world to see, and she’s protecting it 24-hours a day. As portrayed by actress Saffron Henke, Electricidad is a fierce avenging angel, played to the max.
Even as Alfaro evokes anguish and tragedy, he’s having satirical fun with his roots. Every Greek tragedy has a chorus commenting on the action, so Alfaro gives us broom-wielding Latina cleaning ladies. Therese Llanes, Nancy Silva and especially Irene Velasquez are all very funny. They sweep up as they gab about the dark portents that are gathering.
There’s also Abuela, hilariously played by the highly versatile Janis Stevens as a sexy senior citizen, tottering through on spiky high heels. Handsome Orestes (Gabriel Montoya) hides out in Vegas while training as a future gang leader, strengthening his body and getting tattooed. Ify (Ifigenia, played by Katherine C. Miller) has bailed out of Los Angeles for a new religious life in a convent in Fresno. And there’s Elisabeth Nunziato as Clemencia (the icy object of Electricidad’s fury), and Roscoe (as the savvy older gang member training Orestes).
The dialogue’s in Spanglish—mostly English, but with Spanish in strategic phrases. Stephen Decker’s set has a shrine to La Virgen de Guadalupe, with sprayed graffiti left and right. Director Susannah Martin, a recent MFA from UC Davis, balances the show’s many diverse elements and changing moods adroitly, and brings tension to a brutal ending that’s foretold.
Lastly, let’s acknowledge STC artistic director Peggy Shannon. Electricidad comes right after The Peculiar and Sudden Nearness of the Moon and Othello, making for a trio of challenging productions about love, loyalty, mistakes and denial, tied up with racial identity and the power of memory. These are big, important issues, and Shannon has given us the most interesting sequence of shows STC’s mounted in years.