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The House On Mango Street production Leaves Lasting Impression

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Story by Jovana Sanchez-Melendez

The House on Mango Street, The Latino Cultural Center

Pilar Ortiz-Groseclose (L) as Older Esperanza and Ana Gonzalez (R) as Young Esperanza. Photo by Fabián Aguirre of Sauros Digital.

Interesting things are happening inside the theater at the Latino Cultural Center on Live Oak. Cara Mia Theatre Company, a nonprofit organization founded in 1996, has been bringing a broad understanding of Chicano and Mexican-American culture to the stage.

Saturday was the preview for their newest production of Sandra Cisneros’ novel; The House on Mango Street. The novel is composed of short vignettes that do not necessarily connect with one another and told from the perspective of a young Chicana girl named Esperanza. The play is told from the point of view of an older Esperanza, played by Pilar Ortiz-Groseclose, remembering her past.  The scenes represent the memory of her past where a younger Esperanza (played by Ana Gonzalez) picks up the narrative.  Director David Lozano had been looking to produce this play since 2006.

L-R Ileana Alcala, Kimberly Gutierrez and Patricia Gaytan during intermission of The House on Mango Street (Photo by Jovana Sanchez-Melendez)

Saturday’s preview was highly anticipated by many within the Latino community.  According to audience member Patricia Gaytan, Cara Mia did a good job of promoting the play which followed its acclaimed production Crystal City 1969 in December. Gaytan, a school teacher plans to read the novel to her fourth grade class.

The story is one many Chicanos and Mexican-Americans can easily relate to. Esperanza is a preteen coming of age in a neighborhood full of different personalities. She struggles to understand her changing body and find her voice within the ever present landscape of poverty and male oppression.

Cara Mia is putting forth a view of young Hispanic Americans that is the most honest and truthful I have ever seen. “I find that our plays represent the Latino / Chicano experience that is almost never fairly represented in mainstream theater, film or TV,” said Director David Lozano.

Years ago, the few Latinos in prominent TV shows were typecast as the conga player, handy man or the sultry next door neighbor. Latino children had nowhere to turn to view a character they truthfully could relate to.  Spanish language programing offered less hope as novelas imported from Latin America showed a lifestyle far different from ours here.

But The House on Mango Street addresses far more than Chicano culture.  Esperanza subtlety hints at a male dominated world on Mango Street where women are domineered by their husbands and fathers. Esperanza struggles to understand the attention her physical changes receive from boys and men.

“I felt that the main character Esperanza is really crying out for guidance in a world in which adults don’t address sexual issues directly but young people learn about in places like the “Monkey Garden” where her friend Sally has an encounter with three boys,” said Lozano.  “I knew that I had to direct this play to reveal this aspect of the story. I hope I was able to do that effectively,” he said.  These topics directly parallel real life and Lozano taps into the audience’s understanding successfully.

Everyone who attends will be able to relate to a character or moment within the play. The Chicano experience was depicted so precisely that many scenes seemed to be taken from personal story lines.

A scene where Esperanza’s father (played by Ivan Jasso) alerts her that his father has passed is an example of this.  Esperanza has to tell her siblings they cannot play outside or listen to music.  The scene brought chills to my spine because the same thing happened the day my grandfather passed away. We, just like the characters in the play, were unaware that the mourning process was supposed to be solemn. Jasso convincingly portrayed a distraught father and reminded me of my parents’ reaction.

The House on Mango Street brings to light the little told story of machismo and other barriers for women in the Hispanic community. “Many of us have mothers, grandmothers, and aunts who were unable to fulfill their dreams because of the machismo in traditional Mexican culture, because of language barriers, or even illness,” said Lozano.  He wants the audience’s lasting impression of the play to stay with characters which were never able to leave Mango Street.

The play’s story line is solid enough to be enjoyed in any setting.  But placed in the context of what Cara Mia Theatre is trying to accomplish makes it more of an experience than just a show.  Opening night for The House on Mango Street is Thursday, March 31st. Those interested in seeing the seldom told story of how Chicanos experience their upbringing in America should purchase their tickets soon.

Categories: Featured, Performing, Recent Posts, The Arts
  • shawnpwilliams

    This is an excellent post and makes me want to see this play. Thanks Jovana.

  • Fabian

    I will be taking a group of 10 people to see this play next weekend. I’ll be sharing your review with them. I was excited to see it before reading your review but now I REALLY want to see it. Thank you for posting!

  • Deo

    Very good story! The play is amazing! I am excited to live in a city where we have such talented actors, producers, directors, and companies like CaraMia. Congrats to everybody!

  • Yolette Garcia

    Nice writing about a Dallas theatrical version of a significant novel. You bring strong attention to an important piece of art. Thanks.

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