ensemble theatre · las damas calaveras · Ages 15+ · world premiere · United States of America

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June 22, 2016 certified reviewer

What I liked

¡Diós mío, esta bueno ver un juego con algo de Español!

But seriously, Odilia not only tells a beautiful story filled with culture and tradition, poetry and pain, but it is a fantastic window into a world that is massively un- (or at least under-)represented on the American stage and screen.

From the very first moments of the play, the audience is transported to the Middle Ground where we stay for the duration of the journey. The questions asked aren’t what bites down and digs in, the answers (or the struggle to find the answers) are.

With such an ensemble-driven show, it’s difficult to pick out and name any one person in particular as a standout. Every actor brought unique style and personality to their characters, painting a canvass rich with color and movement. From Olivia Delgado’s heartbreaking desperation to save her client’s life to Isaac Cruz’s charismatic conniving toward his true goal, from Marta Portillo’s sensual and fiery passion to Tom Sandoval’s paternal charm (so wonderfully and familiarly reminiscent of my tíos y abuelos) and Silvie Zamora’s lust for curiosity inside her proud innocence, the entire cast turned out stellar performances.

Vanessa Espino’s composition of Odilia (for that’s what it is; not simply writing or scribing, but composing) is deserving of every kind of praise. The story is like a Russian nesting doll of cultural traditions, history, and challenges. How do we keep our traditions alive when they have been relegated to the Middle Ground? And if we give in to those traditions, can we get back to life? I suppose that’s for each audience to decide.

What I didn't like

Any criticisms I have for Odilia could be relegated to nit-picking. Certain set elements that simply seemed mis-sized, the technical challenges inherent in any Fringe production, those sorts of things. But beyond those, I have very little to complain about.

As this show goes forward, as I hope it will, the pace can continue to drive, and the stakes for some of the characters could certainly escalate to a more desperate and dire level. That said, it’s a fabulous show, a beautiful story, and extremely well-acted.

My overall impression

Bringing the culture of the most populace demographic in Los Angeles to the forefront of the stage with poetry, melancholy, tradition, and hope.

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