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BWW Review: Teatro Vivo's NUESTRA PASTORELA is a Heartwarming Holiday Comedy For All Ages

NUESTRA PASTORELA is written by David Lozano and Jeffry Farrell and is presented in Austin by Teatro Vivo. This is an adaptation of a Mexican Pastorela, a time-honored retelling of the Nativity told from the perspective of the shepherds. Traditionally, the shepherds must defy the temptations of the seven deadly sins set posed by the devil follow the star to Bethlehem. This story sets the tone for the holiday season with the important message that good will always triumph over evil. In this comedic variation, the traditional Pastorela receives a humorous makeover and the three shepherds at the center of the story are portrayed as clowns.

Much like the biblical version, the angel Gabriel (Previstero Aguirre) commands the shepherds/clowns: Mamá (Marina DeYoe-Pedraza), Niño (Miguel Angel Lozano), and Niña (Diana Patricia Guizado) to travel to Bethlehem to see the newborn savior. Along the way, the bumbling troupe must defy the temptations set forth by The Devil, Luzbel (played by Adam A Martinez and Chelsea Rodriguez) and their reluctant demon subordinate, Pingo (Mariana Morón García). Despite Luzbel and Pingo's best efforts, each plan to tempt the trio from their holy mission ends up going delightfully awry with hilarity ensuing. Eventually, evil is defeated and the shepherds arrive in Bethlehem to offer their gifts to the baby Jesus.

The acting ensemble in this vibrant production has vivacity and enthusiasm throughout the seventy-minute show. Pedraza, Lozano, and Guizado function as a wacky, multi-limbed mechanism as the good-natured, but blundering Pastores. Whether they are tending their flock or settling down for sleep, the threesome's physical performance add moments of high energy and enhance the comedic visual effect. Martinez and Rodriguez are grandiose and devilishly fun as the domineering duo of Luzbel. García as Pingo is hilariously ill-suited for her devilish task. This ineptitude provides rollicking results with each failed attempt leaving the audience imagining the demon more fit for a life of clowning than that of an unholy underling.

Director, Ricky Ramón has expertly staged this piece to give the feeling of haphazardness without feeling clumsy. From pre-show as the actors dress and prepare for their roles, to the shepherds' brief stint as Banditos, to their arrival at the manger; the show moves fluidly from one scene to the next. The play's mostly bilingual dialogue is easily understood thanks to the universal language of physical comedy and character work done by the actors. This work also generously benefits the more tender moments of the play.

With piles of boxes, suitcases, and knick-knacks surrounding the stage in organized chaos, the set designed by Oscar Franco feels like that of a travelling show. Many of these items, set by the actors during the preshow, serve various purposes during the performance. From the Pastores' clown noses to the gifts of the Wise Men, each prop is placed with care in a specific location and aids in the storytelling. Live accompaniment by Musical Director, Clemencia Zapata and Erik Flores provides a rich musical score for each character and scenario. Lighting design by Ryan Salinas is simple but enhances the show's visual aspects; especially when reflecting off Gabriel's glorious, golden wings.

Overall, NUESTRA PASTORELA is a heartwarming comedy fit for the whole family. The production also provides an insightful look into the holiday traditions and stories of Mexican culture. Families looking for a fun and festive outing should definitely check out this instant Austin holiday classic.

NUESTRA PASTORELA plays at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St. Austin, Texas 78701) from December 1st to 18th. Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00pm, and Sundays at 2:00pm.

Tickets: $20 reserved, $15 General Admission, and $12 for Students, Teachers, and Senior Citizens.

Thursdays and Sundays are Pay-What-You-Wish. Not available online

Visit Teatro Vivo's website for additional information and to purchase tickets.

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From This Author - Lacey Cannon Gonzales