A NoHo Arts theater review of Los Angeles Pierce College Theater’s of “El Nogalar,” written by Tanya Saracho. directed by Christian Barillas, running through April 3.
There is something a bit magical about driving up the long hill inside the grounds of Pierce College toward the summit, the theater complex and what is always a wonderful evening of interesting theater. Their latest production, “El Nogalar” is no exception. A Mexican take on Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard,” this play is set in present day Northern Mexico. A family matriarch and her youngest college age daughter return home to their family house surrounded by pecan orchards, where the eldest daughter has been taking care of everything for the last few years, alone, and quietly watching the surrounding countryside and every other farm taken from family after family by the local drug lords and their violent gangs.
It’s a dismal story, and one that reflects the truth of the region. Any land adjacent to the US is easy prey to the organized criminal activity of these huge gangs. This family is all the more vulnerable as they are three women, no husband, no brothers, just each other.
As the story unfolds, it’s also clear that the mother has spent too much time imagining herself to be utterly irresistible and therefore impervious to the world and it’s dark tragedies. She has squandered the family fortune, she has not protected her daughters, or taken advice or chosen well in any way. Thus, losing their wealth because of her narcissistic and dangerously flamboyant life. Now she is faced with utter ruin and still she can’t accept the truth.
This tragedy is told with nuance and candor and an aching kind of familiarity. This family jumps out of the story, vivid and yearning, as does the maid and the groundkeeper, whose decade-long simmering resentments boil over as the story reaches its sad conclusions.
Is it sad? Or, is it progress? Either way, it’s been a long time coming and the realities of inevitable change, as one way of life becomes assigned to ancient history, and as the world balance shifts, is really something to watch.
Los Angeles Pierce College Theater’s: “El Nogalar, is a wonderful production. The set design is truly exquisite, the house is as ever present for us as it has been in all these people’s lives. It feels like a castle keeps falling from one invader to another. We are aware of the thugs, hovering always just outside of the light, like sinister vultures. Yet, in the end, the enemy is truly within… and isn’t that just always the case?
The performances are wonderful. Each and every one. These people all seem so real, so familiar, so truthful. Watching them all circle around each other, spiraling, pandering, clawing, It’s really excellent drama.
“El Nogalar” is authentically written, beautifully staged and artfully directed with lovely clever flourishes and gorgeous style.
I highly recommend “El Nogalar” and you only have one more weekend to see it. If you are venturing out, and I am eternally grateful to be, then please don’t forget that Pierce College has some wonderful work being produced at the Dow Arena Theater. “EL Nogalar” is really fantastic and deserves our support!
Alex Balderas, Yvonne Caro Caro, Jacob Gonzales, Jhon Cartolin Leon, Loida Novas, Danni Rabbani, Stella Ramirez, Amy Solano and Angelo Spinosa.
Scenic Design by Frederica Nascimento, Costume Design by Sarah Birke, Lighting Design by Casey Cowan Gale and Sound Design by Edward Salas. Sasha Santa Cruz is the Stage Manager.
Running Through April 3. Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 2pm
6201 Winnetka Ave.
Woodland Hills, CA 91367