By Dave Barton
By LP Hastings
By Sarah Bennett
By LP Hastings
By Jena Ardell
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
By Joel Beers
Magic doesn't just come in the title of the latest Christmas production at South Coast Repertory. In its 12th year, La Posada Magica—written and directed by Octavio Solis, with music by Marcos Loya—proves that a celebration of the Christmas spirit can still challenge the viewer.
La Posada Magica establishes its warm, intimate style even before the play begins, as Loya and Lorenzo Martinez combine the sounds of their acoustic guitars (Loya on guitar, Martinez on the deep bass guitaron) in Latin-infused—or "Chicano-fied," as Loya calls them—renditions of traditional Christmas songs. Loya comfortably converses with the audience between songs until they are so blissfully hypnotized that they barely notice the eight-member acting ensemble filling the small stage behind the guitarists.
It's clear from its unassuming beginning that La Posada Magica's primary concern is to tell a simple yet heartbreakingly beautiful story with artful sincerity and almost egoless excellence. Performed in English with Spanish phrases, the play tells the story of Gracie (Tiffany Ellen Solano)—a despondent 14-year-old who has rejected her belief in God in the wake of her baby brother Ernesto's death. At odds with the world, Gracie reluctantly finds herself in the midst of a posada—a group of neighbors who travel from house to house by candlelight in remembrance of Mary and Joseph's journey on the first Christmas Eve.
Instead of being swept up in the peace, joy and love of la posada, Gracie makes it her mission to systematically extinguish the candles of each member of the posada crew and spread her special brand of discontent throughout the land. Eventually, Gracie alienates herself from all goodwill and finds herself alone in a graveyard, where masked grave robbers (Kevin Sifuentes and Sol Castillo) entice her to join her baby brother in death.
La Posada Magica simply covers all the bases. It has a talented ensemble of performers acting out a brave and affecting script on a striking set by Christopher Acebo. It has masks, puppets and perfectly coordinated costumes by Shigeru Yaji that bring the characters to life, and the whole crew is saturated with the brilliant lighting of Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz.
Embracing darkness and light, discord and harmony, this production is one enduring Christmas story that doesn't rely on naiveté or simple escapism to get its job done.
LA POSADA MAGICA AT SOUTH COAST REPERTORY, JULIANNE ARGYROS STAGE, 655 TOWN CENTER DR., COSTA MESA, (714) 708-5555.
ThURS.-FRI., DEC. 22-23, 7:45 P.M.; SAT., 11:30 A.M. $15-$35.