‘Into the Beautiful North’ poses question for Mexico

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

San Diego Rep’s artistic director Sam Woodhouse is known for pushing into the unknown – searching for projects that will “nourish progressive political and social values and celebrate the multiple voices of our region”.

Woodhouse has done it again with his latest effort.

Always fearless in his attempt to bring contemporary issues to the stage, “Into the Beautiful North” is part of a rolling world premier partnering with other theatres in California, Oregon, and Illinois. Playwright Karen Zacarias (a co-founder of the Latino Theatre Commons in Washington, D.C.)  has brought Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel to life.

The question posed by this work is: What happens to Mexico’s villages when all the able body men leave to find work elsewhere? And the even bigger question: “How do we get them back”?

The tale unravels as 19-year-old Nayeli, her girlfriend, Vampi, and their pal, Tacho, become inspired by the film, “The Magnificent Seven”, and set out to find seven brave men to return to their village to become their protectors.

Nayeli (Kenia Ramirez) exudes youthful enthusiasm as she leads her merry amigos on this miss adventure. Vampi (Jennifer Paredes) vocalizes her angst through frequent outbursts on the ukulele. Tacho (Bryant Hernandez) has a stand out performance. He portrays his character openly and with compassion.

Featured actors play multiple roles like Catalina Maynard as Irma, the responsible Mayor. Jorge Rodriguez plays a dreamy Johnny Depp.  Herbert Siguenza is frightfully believable in his many characters.

Xavi Moreno brings power and depth to his.  Javier Guerrero can flip between border patrol and Missionary Matt with ease. Each character helps to illuminate the multiple mishaps along the journey.

Ian Wallace created a minimalist scene and projection design to represent the starkness and desperation. Jennifer Brawn Gittings designed realistic costumes. Lighting designer Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz uses his expertise to create mood along with Matt Lescault-Wood as sound designer. Michael Roth created the original music and the designed the soundscape.

“Into the Beautiful North” is directed by Sam Woodhouse. It will run through April 23 at the Lyceum Theatre 79 Horton Plaza. GPS address: 225 Broadway Circle, San Diego. Parking is steps away and only $10 on show nights. Box Office hours are noon to 7 p.m., (619) 544-1000, www.sdrep.org.

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