Review: MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES at Southwest Shakespeare Company

Runs through May 8 at Taliesin West

By: May. 06, 2022

Review: MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES at Southwest Shakespeare Company

BWW Review: Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles

I will start by saying that I feel unqualified to write this review. As I sat through Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles, I realized that I have never known the fear of being undocumented or having to worry about people turning me in to immigration because it grants them a false sense of immunity. The story of Madea is heartbreaking and terrifying, and I have not been able to stop thinking about the show since I saw it. This is a very real situation for many people living in the United States and art is supposed to make us uncomfortable to help us promote change. I think Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles is just this type of art.

The play follows Madea, her "husband" Jason, their son, Acan, and their Tita. Living in Los Angeles, Madea is making pittance on her clothing creations while Jason is working for an older woman, Armida, as a foreman. As Jason works his way up in the company, he also develops a special relationship with Armida that causes problems in his relationship with Madea. I highly recommend reading the dramaturgy prepared for this show. Written and prepared by Tiffany Ana Lopez (Dramaturge) and Maxwell Plata (Assistant Dramaturg), this information helped me better understand the show, the relationships between the characters, and how the physical setting becomes its own character that drives action and reaction, not just from the cast, but from the audience as well.

Bethany Bacca leads the cast as Madea. Madea is a complicated character and Bethany navigates the revelations about Madea with poise and skill. As we learn more about her and witness her responses to her circumstances, it is easy to sympathize with her, but I found it difficult to empathize with her by the end. Bacca is superb and it is clear she feels the weight of the story she is telling and is giving it everything she has.

As Jason, Gustavo A. Flores is fantastic. Jason is striving to acclimate to his new life in the United States while maintaining his relationship with Madea and Tita who are securely fixed in the traditions of their native country, Mexico. Jason knows how important it is for him to succeed in order to support his family and he will stop at nothing to provide for his son. Flores plays Jason with strength, drive, and confidence, but also perfectly displays the desperation and loneliness Jason has been feeling since he arrived in the United States.

Tita, played by Greta Skelly, serves as a narrator and the conscience of the play. Skelly has the most difficult monologue of the show as she recounts the trip from Mexico to the United States. Her performance is filled with pain, sadness, worry, hurt, suffering, strength, and hope. Her performance has stayed with me, and I am in awe of her ability to tell such a difficult story night after night. Skelly is an accomplished performer and I hope everyone gets to see her incredible performance.

Armida is played to villainous perfection by Angela Kabasan-Gonzalez. Although, it can be said that there are several villains in this play. Armida came to the US with a student visa and has clawed her way to success. She sees potential in Jason and she is not afraid to use him to further her desires while giving Jason everything he dreams about. Kabasan-Gonzalez plays Armida with conviction, while allowing Armida's conniving nature to show through. It really is a brilliant performance; a character you love to hate.

Josephina is an immigrant who has been in the United States for several years and is finding success selling her baked goods. She misses her home but is grateful to be in the U.S. living the American Dream from her garage. Played by Alejandra Luna, Josephina is a link between what is familiar and what is possible for Madea and her family. Luna plays Josephina with eagerness and hope. Josephina is sad about a lot of things, but Luna allows us to feel the hope instead of the desperation.

Madea and Jason's son, Acan, is played by Carlos Sanchez Beltran. Acan is young, but eager to adapt to his new life in the U.S. It causes contention between him and his mother, but Acan is acclimating well. Beltran is obviously older than Acan is meant to be, but he plays his part with sincerity. Acan has a lot of emotions for a child and Beltran helps the audience see the struggle to please both of his parents who are asking different things of him.

Rounding out this phenomenal cast is Hamblet J. Lemus. He steps into the roles of Universal Man and Soldier. He does not speak, but his presence is important.

Written by Luis Alfaro and directed by Micah Espinosa, Madea is an important piece of art. The simple set and ambience at Taliesin West set the tone for the production. I am told that there are also projections that assist in telling the story, but they were not working when I attended. I am certain, based on my other experiences with Southwest Shakespeare, that the projections aid and enhance the play and do not detract from it.

Please go see this show. It is something I will never forget. The cast and crew have worked to create an amazing piece of art. Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles plays through May 8 at Taliesin West. Tickets can be purchased HERE. I truly hope this production gets the attention it deserves because it is important for all of us to understand why it is hard to live in the United States and what we can do to make it better for everyone.

PC: Southwest Shakespeare Company

Production Team:

Natalie Payán - Sound Design

Adriano Cabral - Dialect Coach

Beau Heckman - Properties Designer/Camera Operator

Marissa "MJ" Beckett - Production Stage Manager

Dylan Prentis - Assistant Stage Manager

Emmy Antillon - Sound Board Operator

Sunshine McKissick - Light Board Operator

Marco Monacchio - Spot Operator

Costume Designer - Jessica Young

Stacey Walston - Lighting Designer/Technical Director

Will Rogers - Media Designer