Theatre director challenges Sonoma audience to challenge itself

Posted on November 5, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

(By Beulah Vega) Sunday, something happened that I have never seen in nearly two decades of working in the theater. An entire audience stood up and walked out. I’d like to talk about that.

The play is Marisol, by Jose Rivera. It is a critically acclaimed, Obie Award-winning play. And it has always been considered controversial.

The characters live in a magical world that can sometimes be scary. An absurd world, but a world not unlike our own, where there are sometimes sexual overtones. Where there is sometimes foul language. Where there is violence.

There are those that feel that Rivera purposefully overfilled his work with so much offensive absurdism and so many social issues that the work becomes pointless. Those people are mistaken.

Marisol is a searing commentary about social justice and unity. It speaks to what happens when we can no longer close our eyes, when the plagues of the world become too much to bear. It speaks to the strength that we have when we lose the notions of race and class and choose to join together as a people. It speaks to the power of the life force that a proud and defiant band of humans can have when we are finally forced to stand together and fight for love and light.

I am not going to defend this production with any platitudes about how well directed it is, or how beautiful the set is. I will say that I have known most of these actors for years, and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that this is the most passionate and truthful work that I have ever seen from any of them. They love and care about their characters so much that it hurts them. They shower the stage with every ounce of their souls, each and every night and that kind of work can be powerfully rough to perform. And powerfully moving to watch.

Yes, you may experience feeling sad, or angry or uncomfortable. Yes, you may be offended.

I say that you should be offended.

You should be offended that the characters inhabit this terrifying and troubled world where violence is commonplace. You should be offended that their world has deteriorated to the point where children are stillborn and people eat garbage. We all should be offended that people are forced to live this way, eating garbage if they eat at all, children being born only to die cold and alone in the dark. We should be offended that some people thrive on being hateful, praying on others who’s only hope is to conceal their beautiful truths, just to try to survive.

These things happen, every day, in our world.

This play is not anti-God, it is not anti-good taste, it is not anti-middle class. IT IS anti-sorrow. IT IS anti-anguish, anti-hatred, and anti-apathy. This play speaks for all of those that we as a society have rendered mute. That can be offensive for those of us who still close our eyes to shield us from nightmares. However, the only way to combat nightmares is to force them into the light. To examine them honestly and embrace the truth they are trying to tell us.

I implore you, please, to join us on this journey. If you do, we promise a truthful, beautiful story, and all we ask is that you ask yourself one question — Do I take offense to the story, or rather to what the story has brought to light?

Beulah Vega is the director of “Marisol,” a Narrow Way Stage Company production at Andrews Hall Thursday-Sunday, through November 17. The group is offering $10 tickets, and nightly talk-backs with the audience.

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