See It Now

The Mexican OC is perhaps the story for our times

One of the most significant plays in the history of Orange County theater—if not the cultural history of the county—opens later this month: The "Mexican" OC, an oral history project that attempts to document the mostly unknown stories of the people who supplied the blood, sweat and tears of this county long before Old Glory waved from atop its post offices and city halls.

The play's debut couldn't come at a better time—when armed vigilantes patrol the border, Costa Mesa cops clamp down and millions protest the pending federal immigration "reform." Its touch of context and dose of history serve as an antidote to the screeching of extremists on both sides.

Written by Heather Enriquez, Sara Guerrero, Apolonio Morales, Cristina Nava and Elizabeth Sekeresh—and glimpsed at a staged reading at a private house in Fullerton last weekend—the collaboration isn't some shameless knockoff of The O.C.or a rabble-rousing La Raza manifesto. It is a sincere, funny and, above all, enlightening look at the story of Mexican immigrants in Orange County.

The "Mexican" OC is produced by the Breath of Fire Theater Company, a theater collective staging it in the Centro Cultural de Mexico in Santa Ana for six nights beginning April 28, and it is derived from interviewing dozens of people to create a theatrical narrative.

What makes The "Mexican" OCunique is the subject and setting: it's all Orange County, all the time. No Los Angeles, no Tijuana, no Long Beach, no Central Valley. Every story—whether it's the young woman who fights the construction of the first railroad through the county or the people whose families, though born in the United States, were repatriated back to Mexico during the Depression—deals with an Orange County issue or person.

Much of it is funny; some of it is uncomfortable, if not downright infuriating. I have no idea if the full production will be as entertaining and informative as the reading—but if it is, The "Mexican" OCis the type of play that everyone should see. Therein lies the rub.

A play like this should be seen by everyone, regardless of race, religion or income bracket, because it is about real people and real things happening either inside our houses or outside our doors. And while I'm sure the El Centro Cultural de Mexico is a wonderful place and serves a great purpose, do you think any but the most enlightened gabachos are going to drive to downtown Santa Ana to see this production? It needs to be staged at existing theaters with an audience base that might really learn from the material, whether it's the Irvine Community Theatre, Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse or Fullerton College.

The producers want the play to live on beyond its six-night run in Santa Ana—but that's either going to take the money to rent their own space or a daring, far-thinking theater troupe or department that realizes a great opportunity to get in early on the only play ever generated by local theater types that could truly be called important. The story of the 21st century in Orange County, and this country, will be peppered by accent marks and upside-down question marks. The "Mexican" OC is a great introduction to why that is, and how we can honor the past without pissing our chinos about the future.

THE "MEXICAN" OC, EL CENTRO CULTURAL DE MEXICO, 310 W. FIFTH ST., SANTA ANA, (714) 785-0764. OPENS APRIL 28. FRI.-SAT., 8 P.M.; SUN., 5 P.M.; ALSO THURS., MAY 4, 8 P.M. THROUGH MAY 6. FREE; DONATIONS ARE WELCOME.

 
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