by Angela Imperial
pLAywriting in the city
As oldies music streams through speakers, I notice the old shoes hanging from the electric wire, graffiti on the walls, and the old tires in the front yard. A veterano sits next to me singing along to “In the Still of the Night” by The Five Satins and for a minute I feel as if I’m at a Sunday BBQ in El Sereno somewhere hanging out with the homies.
In reality, I’m sitting at Bilingual Foundation of the Arts eagerly anticipating Electricidad, an adaption of the Greek tragedy Electra, written by the extraordinarily talented Luis Alfaro. The renowned playwright has won a plethora of awards including the MacArthur “Genius” Foundation Fellowship in 1997, and the 1988 National Hispanic Playwriting Competition Prize. He was recently awarded the 2012 Joyce Award. It is being produced by Project Twenty12, a group of old college friends who came together with the sole intent of getting Electricidad on stage.
Partnering with Homeboy Industries, Project Twenty12 offered a Stagecraft Apprentice program collaborating with Los Angeles’s leading non-profit organization helping gang involved youth and adults become thriving members of society through education and job training. The six men selected did everything from cutting wood to painting the set to assisting the wonderfully talented set designer Geronimo Guzman. With 15% of the ticket sales being donated to Homeboy Industries, Producer/Director Sylvia Blush’s goal of offering “a safe environment” for gang members learning a new definition of survival will surely be met.
In Electricidad, Luis Alfaro takes Greek text and transforms it into a modern day version filled with cholos and cholas battling over gang infested land teetering on ruin after the “king” of this gangland is gunned down. Armed with black eyeliner, AquaNet and baggy pants, Sylvia Blush directs an ensemble that brings their struggle to survive to the stage.
As the title character Electricidad, Griselda Marquez stands out as a young chola coping with family loss, betrayal and the need for revenge. Her dedication to the role is frightening and refreshing; especially as she battles her mom who is portrayed by the hilarious Rebecca Cherkoss dressed as a chola version of Peg Bundy. Tom Sandoval as Nino and Sara Guerrero as Abuela embrace their roles fully, physically and emotionally. The actors in this production are so well made up it’s as if the makeup is a character of its own. Make-up/hair designer Alma L. Griffin does an impeccable job of giving the actors faces that truly define each of their characters, especially the vecinas (or neighbors in Spanish) beautiful calavera type masks. The few technical problems experienced on opening weekend were expertly maneuvered with immense professionalism by the talented cast.
Electricidad is an emotionally packed production that addresses family loyalty and pride. Luis Alfaro has taken a Greek tragedy and rewritten a modern day fairy tale complete with a joint smoking fairy godmother and conniving evil queen. This story will strike a nerve even if you haven’t spent time cruising down the boulevard. It goes well beyond the white eyeshadow and crisply ironed Dickies pants. This is a provocative take on a family fighting for sanity and thrusts the audience into theatrically uncharted territory.
Electricidad runs until March 17, 2012. All shows are 8 p.m at Bilingual Foundation for the Arts 421 N. Avenue 19 Los Angeles, CA 9003. More information can be found at www.ProjectTwenty12.com and www.brownpapertickets.com.