‘Amarillo’ at GALA Hispanic Theatre by Don Michael Mendoza

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I have never been to the GALA Hispanic Theatre and was excited to see the restored theatre space and watch a show brought to DC all the way from Mexico. Teatro Linea de Sombra’s original production of Amarillo was both a moving and educational performance because it was only in Spanish and it teetered on the line between theatre and performance art, which made it a challenge to watch and understand.

It is a movement show about the issue of illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States, and the crossing of Mexican migrants into Texas. Personally, as a child of Filipino immigrants, I really connected to the themes of finding a better life – even though my parents immigrated in a much different way – and the feeling of struggle portrayed throughout the piece moved me.

Seeing this show is a different kind of experience because it uses non-traditional tech elements such as video in combination with lighting and sound to create a whole new world on the stage. While I followed the themes of struggle and illegal immigration to America pretty well, it was a show more about visuals than one, solid plot line of a story.

The set pieces such as numerous gallon water bottles to represent Mexican migrants and the many pounds of sand poured onto the stage throughout the show to represent the desert they crossed were well orchestrated by designers Kay Perez, Jesus Hernandez and Rodrigo Espinosa. These effects along with different angles of video projection provided by Marina Espana shown on a back wall drew my eye and made my imagination work overtime in a great and exciting way.

In addition to multimedia, the vocalizations and chanting of Jose Jesus Cuevas Cardona added another element that enhanced the whole experience and put the audience on edge during the more desperate moments in the show. Specifically when Raul Mendoza simulated running through the desert and hiding from the American border patrol.

Another moment that stood out for me was a celebration about mid-show full of dance and all the women of the company – Alicia Laguna, Maria Luna Torres, Vianey Salinas Garcia, and Antigona Gonzalez – came together danced in the sand with Mendoza, which was a lively point that was a pleasant surprise in the heavier overall themes of the piece. It showed how well the company members worked as an ensemble and lightened the mood, even if it was only for a short moment.

I do feel, however, that it was far too long for its message and purpose. While the imagery and symbolism in the set were important and essential, the show could be more powerful in a shorter amount of time.

Despite the length, the show is definitely something to be seen and experienced by everyone, especially because the issue of illegal immigration and cultural identity is something that needs to be openly discussed in America today.

Running Time: Approximately 75 minutes, with no intermission.

Teatro Linea de Sombra’s Amarillo has one more performance left – tonight at 8 pm at GALA Hispanic Theatre – 3333 14th St, NW Washington, DC 20010. For tickets, purchase them online or call (202) 234-7174.