Jennifer Paredes (center) stars in "American Mariachi" at the Old Globe Theatre. Photo by Jim Cox
American Mariachi is extremely sentimental, but Jose Cruz Gonzalez’s new play has its heart in the right place: wrapped around a musical art form that is deeply engrained in Mexico’s history, culture and its people. The mariachi performances onstage in this world premiere at the Old Globe, presented in association with Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company and directed by James Vasquez, are by turns rousing and romantic. They will bring to mind times merry and perhaps bittersweet. As is stated with simple eloquence during the one-act show, “Music is memory.”
Memory is key to the 1970s story, in which the loving and dauntless Lucha (Jennifer Paredes) sets out to form an all-woman mariachi group, not just to break barriers but to be able to perform for her Alzheimer’s-afflicted mother (Doreen Montalvo) a song from her elusive past. Lucha’s neophyte mariachi recruits are familiar character types, but each is engaging in her own way, and all, including Paredes, actually do perform by play’s end. (A five-man mariachi group does so throughout.) With its music and gorgeous costumes, American Mariachi (not sure why it’s called that) is beautiful to hear and see even if it does pull with persistence at the heartstrings. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 4/4/18.)
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David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.