The Cambridge English dictionary defines luminosity as the total amount of energy produced by a star in one second. Another source describes it as the rate at which a star radiates energy in all directions. As soon as the lights come up on Cara Mia Theatre Co.’s production blu, by Virginia Grise, running through October 18 at the Latino Cultural Center, an audience will find itself bathed in the play’s luminosity. It radiates soaring text, explosive and rhythmical movement, the challenges of human connection and an immeasurable depth of love that seems to expand a thousand fold across the play’s arc. This production may be the most beautiful work of performance art to grace DFW stages in 2015, from its script to its music to its dance to its actors to the magical visuals created as setting for luminosity’s emergence.
The everyday made mythic. A world beyond war. blu cascades across the stage with casual abandon, a hip-hop punctuated tone poem of family life, trauma and death in the barrio that seems to reflect the timelessness of the massive Aztec sun floating upstage, serene and somber. It gazes down with a mythical presence upon all who pass below. Maybe it’s playwright Grise who provides the luminosity? Excerpted from Yale Press: “Winner of the 2010 Yale Drama competition from more than 950 submissions, Virginia Grise’s play blu takes place in the present but looks back on the not too distant past through a series of prayers, rituals, and dreams. Contest judge David Hare commented, “Virginia Grise is a blazingly talented writer, and her play blu stays with you a long time after you’ve read it.””
Blu is the name protagonist Soledad (played with an edgy maternal focus by Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso) gives to her eldest, most rebellious but cherished son. Like a shooting star in full trajectory across the night sky, Blu, as brought hauntingly to life by incandescent actor Chris Ramirez, escapes the gangland dead-end of the barrio only to find more alienating destruction and death as a soldier in Iraq. His is a tragic journey, imbued with ritualistic veracity beneath a hyperactive, macho, hip-hop, clownish exterior as defined by Ramirez. Perched high on their barrio home’s roof throughout much of the play, a star-gazing fixture of near shamanistic intensity, Gemini, Blu’s younger sister, played by high school student Maya Quetzali, seems to gather the play’s luminosity to her, speaking many of the script’s most mystical, poetic lines. Soledad’s man Eme, played by the fiery Rodney Garza, finds his barrio-limited life derailed in prison, where his connection to the family and their luminous love seems truncated. Blu’s younger brother Luna, often floats around Gemini like a wishful moon, given wistful voice and shadowy reality by Edwin Aguilar, ever eclipsed by the brilliant glow and explosiveness of elder Blu. Soledad’s Lesbian lover, Hailstorm, grounds the play’s ephemeral aspects and accepts and transcends the play’s sorrows with Gaian grace. Stage newcomer but experienced storyteller Edyka Chilome fills the stage with her warm presence and voice as Hailstorm, a believable keeper of the home’s soul and sanity.
Emblematic, primal-toned, essentialist scenic design by Rodney Dobbs provides an ideal backdrop for the play, while lighting (Linda Blasé) and sound design (Trey Pendergrass) work in easy juxtaposition to allow the work’s inner light to shine through. A similar balance in style and tone flows between dance and fight choreography (Michelle N. Gibson and Jeff Colangelo). Ryan Matthieu-Smith’s costume designs tie the actors to the harsh realities of barrio existence, against which they struggle so hard to escape, “radiating energy in all directions.” What a beautifully realized, exceptional work of performance art, masterfully directed by Rene Moreno. Step out lightly into the Dallas night, aglow with blu’s inner light.
Cara Mia Theatre Company’s blu runs through October 18 at the Latino Cultural Center.
TICKETS: 214-516-0706 caramiatheatre.org