Review by Maya Barbon, age 13
While sitting in the theater waiting for the show to begin, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from Milagro Theatre’s play about The Day of the Dead. But as soon as the show began, I was excited and transfixed as I was taken back to a time of gods and rituals. Any questions I had were answered in a way that was colorful and exciting. For a time, I forgot about the world outside, and instead focused on heritage, roots and culture.
When you drive up to the Milagro Theatre to see RAÍZ, the building immediately catches your eye. The outside is colorful and inviting, with reds and oranges that stand out against construction and other grey buildings around it. Once you go inside, a beautiful lobby greets you. There’s art all over the walls, and whether it’s a painting or a sculpture, everything is bright and colorful. Lots of skulls decorate the artwork as a symbol for Día de los Muertos – The Day of the Dead. To the left of the entrance is a small room with painted tiles and other decorations on the wall. In the center of the room is a gorgeous, ornate altar, much like one that is set up during the holiday of Día de los Muertos to honor the dead. It’s a good idea to get to the theater a few minutes early, just to check it out.
When you head in to find your seats, you’ll see the stage in one corner and the seats form almost a half circle around it. Instead of being elevated, the stage is right on the floor. It’s painted with a beautiful Aztec design, and so are the two doors on either side of the set. In between the two doors is a black screen, which is later used for amazing silhouettes and shadows and all the seats offer a great view of the action. The performance had a wide age range of audience members in attendance, from young children to teenagers to seniors.
“Raiz” means roots, which is the perfect name for this play. The show itself shows how the modern world has made people forget their traditions and the gods they worship. Even the gods have forgotten who they are. But as the story progresses, the characters find their way back to their raíz, their roots. The play uses lots of gestures and symbols; the talking is pretty sparse. And the dialogue is bilingual – spoken both in English and Spanish. While it’s helpful to know a little bit of Spanish, it isn’t necessary, for lines alternate between the two languages, giving you a good idea of what’s going on.
The actors in RAÍZ were phenomenal. Each one’s portrayal of his or her character was amazing. You truly believed they were gods, or clowns, or even a loving couple. My favorite characters were the goddess Quetzalcoatl, and the clowns. Quetzalcoatl was powerful and commanding, and while her yelling may have seemed a bit scary to very young viewers, you still see her passion and hopefulness. And the clowns were absolutely brilliant. Their funny acts had everyone laughing. Children will fall in love with them and they add a lot to the kid-friendly aspect of the show.
People of any age will love RAÍZ. For children, the beginning scene is a little intense. But that’s only because it starts out in complete darkness, and spirit noises are heard around you. But if it feels like something may jump out or scare you (like it felt for me) don’t be afraid. For after a few minutes, the back screen lights up and the actors form a wonderful tableaux. The costumes are great, helping show the transition through the years while still staying symbolic and true to the time. The music is lovely, helping to add to each scene with a wonderful score. And when a final dance is performed, all the culture of Día de los Muertos is seen in a lively and spirited way. You’ll feel the drum beating under your feet, and really become a part of the show itself.
RAÍZ was an amazing cultural experience. Audience members from all kinds of backgrounds will greatly appreciate it. I’d recommend it for children 8 and up. You will leave the theater with a smile on your face and a new perception of your roots. As director Arturo Martinini notes “…you are invited to take part in a ritual both ancient and very much alive.”
RAÍZ is running Thursdays through Sundays from October 18 to November 11 at the Milagro Theatre.
Maya was given tickets to see RAÍZ, but was not compensated for this review.
Posted by Ali Wilkinson