By Dee Jae Cox
If you can only see one play this year, go and see Coachella Valley Repertory’s production of Carmen Rivera’s, “La Gringa.” This Obie Award winning play, which is in its sixteenth year of an off Broadway production, is now running through March 22nd at the CV Rep.
Rarely does a play make me laugh and cry with such sincerity. Rivera’s script is humorous and poetic and most of all significant. It explores family relationships, love, heartache and the pure joy that only family can define. New York City born, Maria, artfully and skillfully performed by the very talented Ayanery Reyes, has gone back to Puerto Rico to connect with family and find her roots. In America, she is considered Puerto Rican, in Puerto Rico, she is ‘La Gringa’ and Maria is left feeling like she is nobody, everywhere.
Rivera’s play explores the definition of family, the choices we make and the changes we go through in order to find ourselves and where we belong. Maria conflicts with her aunt Norma, beautifully performed by Marina Re, I felt her struggle to accept a niece that seemed to be the personification of all of her pain, and her cousin Iris, played by the talented Kyla Garcia, who seemed to secretly envy Maria’s opportunities, yet like her mother Norma, would deny her own dreams to stay committed to family. But it is Maria’s relationship with her Uncle Manolo, brilliantly performed by Peter Mins, that takes Maria from the misplaced ‘Gringa’ to being a full-fledged member of the family. Mins’ heart wrenching portrayal of a man who made the effort to ‘climb every mountain’ and who teaches Maria to do the same, is the heartbeat of the story. Robert Almovovar’s performance as Maria’s uncle Victor, portrays a man caught between the despair of his wife and the hope of how he really views the world.
Ron Celona’s direction is flawlessly executed as each blocking move seems to have purpose and intent. Jimmy Cuomo’s Set is perfect for the space and the story. It transported me to this family’s home on the Island. Lynda Shaeps hair and makeup, along with Aalsa Lee’s costume designs, brought these characters from the page to the stage with perfection. I have not heard Cricket Myers’ Sound design since doing a show in Los Angeles, but she has since continued to perfect her art. The music of the coquís (tiny frogs), took me to this island paradise.
“LA Gringa” is a part of CV Rep’s “American Melting Pot” season theme and they continue to inspire with another high quality hit. This production, this script and these actors all come together with a harmony so rarely seen on stage. They will make you laugh out loud, shed a tear or two and have you leaving the theatre with plenty of food for thought. “Blood is thicker than geography,” as Iris says. And this play will make you want to call home.
La Gringa is appropriate for all ages over 12 years, so go ahead and have a family outing or just a date with your significant other.
La Gringa is in production at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre located at 69930 Highway 111, Suite 116, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270, now through March 22, 2015 with evening performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM and matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 PM.
For Reservations: call 760-296-2966, or visit www.cvrep.org
Dee Jae Cox, is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director for The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project and the host of KPTR 1450’s hit radio show, “California Woman 411” in Palm Springs.