For the final production of the first season of performances at the renovated Howard Brubeck Theatre, Director Michael Mufson marked Palomar Performing Art as a center for cultural exchange in North County.
A scarcely known play titled “Esperanza Rising,” Lynne Alvarez’s adaptation of Pam Munoz Ryan’s young adult novel of the same name, serves as Mufson’s catalyst.
It is a coming of age story, among other things, of young Esperanza Ortega (Myra Zamora) as she tries to find herself after tragedy turns her world upside down.
The play opens with Esperanza lying down with her ear to the ground, listening for the earth’s heartbeat as the ensemble thumps rhythmically on their chests. A powerful image, but the musical number that follows is awkward.
The traditional Mexican music is not fashionable for the stage, and the ensemble was a hit and miss when it came to dramatic appropriateness.
Barbour’s acting was superb but she lost steam as the play progresses.
Ramona’s distress and suffering was very believable, thanks to Aguilar’s resilient disposition and moving vocals.
Decastro Jr. stumbled over his lines more than once, muddying an otherwise clean performance.
It was not until act two that we met Kayla Adorno, playing the quirky and effervescent Isabel. Adorno stole the show from the talented Zamora with her affirmative energy and compassion.
Zamora used her charisma to carry us through some of the rough patches in act one (and there most definitely were rough patches), but Adorno pulled us in with her Dee Dee-like idiosyncrasies.
Zamora and Adorno perform beautifully, but Mufson was more concerned with creating awareness for the Chicano condition than he was with theatrical development and quality.