Cara Mia’s Crystal City 1969 Opens to Great Review

The DMN has its theater review of Cara Mia’s Crystal City 1969, a play based on my hometown.  As I have told many of you, this is must see teatro.  Plus, if you really want to find out why I am the way I am, this will provide you a bit of my personal political foundation.  And congrats to fellow CCHS Alumna Priscilla Rice on her performance as one of the lead activists, Severita Lara (Severita was my Biology teacher back in the mid 80s!).

By LAWSON TAITTE / The Dallas Morning News
ltaitte@dallasnews.com

Cara Mia Theatre’s Crystal City 1969 opened precisely on the 40th anniversary of the historical events it narrates, and it was uniquely thrilling to be sitting near the people portrayed onstage. But it’s a strong enough show – maybe the best original script premiered in Dallas this year – that it can stand on its own with later audiences.

The script’s motto is “Never forget.” But just in case your memory is rusty, a group of Hispanic high school students in a small southwest Texas town led a walkout when the school board refused even to hear their demands for equal rights. The leaders became national celebrities, the town got a whole new set of elected officials within months, and the political party La Raza Unida grew out of the Crystal City events.

David Lozano and Raul Trevino, a local theater artist who happens to be the nephew of one of the original students, wrote the play and produced it, garnering support from many area Latino leaders. Lozano directed the cast of 20, plus a live percussion player.

Crystal City 1969 is unashamedly political theater – like The Cradle Will Rock without the songs. But Lozano long ago established himself as a theatrical stylist and poet. The story is real and accurate to the original events. But it is told fluidly, though movement and image as well as in words.

John M. Flores (no mean playwright himself) narrates, his face in a mask, his gestures often ritualistic. Blanca (played by Rosaura Cruz) wants to be a doctor and has high grades, but a counselor says her IQ is “low normal” – because she had barely begun to learn English when she took the test. Teachers beat other students for speaking Spanish. Finally the kids speak up.

At first the school superintendent agrees to some of the students’ demands, but the board breaks the pact. A new set of students – Severita (Priscilla Rice), Mario (Luis Palmas) and Diana (Ana Gonzalez) – organizes the walkout, with the help of activist Jose Angel Gutierrez (Ivan Jasso).

The actors are terrific. The bilingual script reinforces its points with plenty of humor, though the best jokes always seem to be in Spanish. Lots of heightened detail – a talking Popeye, or two darling children singing a Christmas carol to mark the passage of time – keep the show from seeming too much like a school lesson. You learn painlessly, even have a little fun.

PLAN YOUR LIFE

Through Dec. 19 at the Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak. Runs 105 mins. $10 to $15. 214-717-5317, http://www.caramiatheatre.com.

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