Published on November 14th, 2017 | by Chelsea Seifer0
Luis Valdez’s play “Zoot Suit”, first published in 1980, has been renowned for decades and recently adopted by the Samo theater program.
Giving a voice and shining a spotlight on the controversy over the Sleepy Lagoon murders and Zoot Suit riots that followed, this play is about innocence, nationalism, justice and racism in the 1940s. It takes place in our very own city of Los Angeles, and tells the historical tale of a murder case sentenced unjustly and a man’s personal struggle between loyalty and self-preservation.
Additionally, the plays’ use of stage management and foreign terms really adds to the plays’ hispanic hereditary roots. With “Zoot Suit’s” language barrier and frequent use of prolonged Spanish, the change in language provides authenticism to the play. Even if the viewer isn’t fluent or a native speaker, context allows language to be interpreted easily. Being myself a mediocre spanish two student, some segments kind of lost me, but this was a small price to pay for the real chicano effect that the spanish gives to the play.
I feel that the unique staging of the lead, La Pachuca Adya Mohanty (’18), as an almost ever present subconscious to protagonist Henry, Victor Cruz Martinez (’18), makes her dialogue feel like
his alter ego and the voice of the Zoot Suiters, as if her narrative is his gang-edition of a moral compass. In addition, the rearrangement of the humanities center seating for the performance makes the audience feel like the jury to the court during the trial scenes of the play, which gives a more intimate perspective for viewers.
From the use of red lighting to simulate passion and the bloodiness of the riots, to the backdrops of actual newspaper articles that factor in an element of reality, the stage management brings the play to life and makes it feel current, even though it was decades ago.
From striking show design to pathos-inducing acting, the Samo theater program has certainly done justice to the play, the story, the people and the residing spirits of Henry Reyna. This is a great production for all theater fanatics, spirited Samo supporters, or even just fluent spanish speakers who are down to chill in the Humanities Center for two hours.