- Reporters Desk
By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer
Light in the Darkness tells a story of East Los Angeles gang life that many people would rather ignore.
Since the play has been around for almost 15 years (it premiered at East Los AngelesCollege in 1999 in a production directed by Ramon Monxi Flores, who directs this revival) you know that the problems it addresses are still out there.
Gang violence hasn’t vanished. This story, a violent and sometimes poetic mix of Dicken’s Christmas Carol and a story from the Eastside streets, is a powerful mixture of reality and a ghost story. The play has 19 cast members in more than 40 roles in Victor Tamayo’s play, adapted as well as directed by Flores.
The story centers around Carlos Alvarado (the young Johnny Ortiz) who is caught up in the gang life. But he may change his ways, with more than a little help from spirits, including the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca, (Victor Yerba), who appears in full dance regalia: all black and white with a pheasant feather headdress to dance the dead into eternity.
Yerba’s costume is rich with images of death. His dancing, a true Aztec version, is fascinating. Carlos kills a man and is only able to regain his life after seeing the results of his own death, including an encounter with his 11-year-old self, played with real passion by Xolo Madriduena.
Josh Duron has five separate roles, and he is a delight in all, sometimes comic relief, sometimes serious. Sara Aceves is Liz, Carlos’ love interest, and she is moving and real in her scenes with Carlos.
There is much good in this long play, set under a bridge abutment that doubles for many scenes, but it is also more than a bit preachy. We all know the horrors of the gang life, from TV news — if nothing else; and it is horrible. But this solution, involving ghosts and death and resurrection, is not a solution. The fact that so many actors are willing to come together to act in a play about these crimes, in a theater built in East Los Angeles, suggests that there is a real solution. Director Flores does a good job of keeping the action moving. And, he does so convincingly.
Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 5 p.m. though September 29.
Details: (323) 263-7684, www.casa0101.org
Venue: New Casa 010 Theater
Location: 2102 E. First St., BoyleHeights