4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs

Into the Beautiful North has a little Oz

Stop the bandits

In Into the Beautiful North, Oz is America, but seen for the first time. - Image by Daren Scott
In Into the Beautiful North, Oz is America, but seen for the first time.

If Tres Camarones (“three shrimp”) actually existed, the small fishing village would be about 35 miles south of Mazatlan on the Gulf of California. According to Into the Beautiful North — Karen Zacharias’s new play based on Luis Alberto Urrea’s wonderful novel — almost all the men left to seek their fortunes in the U.S. Of the few that remain, Tacho, who runs a cantina, is gay, and Garcia-Garcia, spent at age 65, operates the only movie house. He can only show a film for two days. After that the town runs out of paying customers.

Into the Beautiful North

A corrupt state narco and a scar-faced drug dealer decide to make Tres Camarones their new headquarters. What to do? How to stop the bandits from destroying the village? A screening of The Magnificent Seven gives young Nayeli an inspiration. She, the bravely flamboyant Tacho, and Vampi (a gleefully nihilistic Goth) will cross the border “into the beautiful north.” They will interview men from Mexico, preferably cops and soldiers, who want to come back.

“We are going,” Nayeli shouts with conviction, “to bring home the Magnificent Seven.”

Nayeli will also seek her father. He’s in Kankakee, Illinois. He’s doing well, he wrote, though “everything passes.” What follows is a Latino Wizard of Oz, set in 2008. The quest is as arduous, if not more, than the movie, and Oz is America, but seen for the first time.

Along the way the trio picks up Kiko at the Tijuana dump. Ex-military and “baddest of the trash pickers,” he’s the opposite of the Cowardly Lion. He’s so macho, he’s convinced he’s a comic strip hero — Atomiko — in need of a cause. Don Quixote streams through his DNA.

The quartet has adventures: some funny (as when they see a lawn with sprinklers and Nayeli discovers that “The United States has grass!”; or when Atomiko learns he can wash his hands in steaming hot water); some horrific, on both sides of the border; some mystical, as when snow falls on Nayeli and Atomiko for the first time.

Now for the obligatory “it ain’t the book” paragraph. Born in TJ, Urrea grew up in San Diego (studied writing at UCSD), and has a keener-than-most novelist’s eye for both sides of the border. In page after page, he describes everyday sights and locations through fresh eyes — always revealing something new about places you thought you knew, be it Colonia Libertad, site of most border crossings, or Clairemont (where everything “went in circles, from cul-de-sac to cul-de-sac, with those dead palm trees above your head, and you never found a way out”).

The Magnificent Seven spends at least the first 45 minutes rounding up the band. The novel spends that much time in Tres Camarones. It delineates the characters, local politics, dreams, and illusions. By the time Nayeli and the others set out for the U.S., Urrea makes the town and the quest matter a great deal.

Theater’s constraints make the play cover ground quicker, but in fits and starts. If the novel were a trip from San Diego to Escondido, it would go up I-5, check out the flat mesas and low lagoons to the west, like riding a slow roller-coaster. Then it would head east up Lomas Santa Fe Drive, tour Rancho Santa Fe and Lake Hodges, and enjoy the sights and three or four geographical changes along the way. The play just zooms north on I-15.

The script has issues with tone. In the book, the courageous quartet crosses the border twice: under a fence and through a tunnel. They’re harassed and deprived at almost every step, and their success is often in serious doubt (homophobia tracks gay Tacho, for example, wherever he goes). But the play, which omits several characters, prefers the comic to the potentially tragic.

Into the Beautiful North is part of the National New Play Network’s “rolling world premiere” series. It opens in several cities around the same time. I’d be curious to see the others, because I suspect they couldn’t top the San Diego Rep’s version.

Michael Roth’s original score makes it a musical or, more accurately, a play with music. Ardent, Latino-inflected songs shoot energy into a sometimes flagging pace. Roth’s soundscape and Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design add dimension to Ian Wallace’s functional set: adobe walls, with the tiara-like suggestion of Tres Camarones’ only remaining church. A stage-within-the-stage includes a rear screen, where Wallace’s projections add realistic touches. A turntable, cacti sliding by, rows of chairs coming and going, add comic touches.

A fine ensemble cast directed by Sam Woodhouse gives the piece the best possible chance. It would be near impossible to go wrong with Jennifer Paredes (one of SD’s most in-demand actors) as defiant Vampi; Jorge Rodriguez as fearsome and funny Atomiko; Bryant Hernandez, a humorous and touching Tacho; Catalina Maynard as Irma, Tres Camarones’ most famous bowler; Xavi Moreno and Javier Guerrero sharp and effective in various roles; and young Kenia Ramirez as Nayeli, Dorothy of Oz, only much more visionary and a master of karate.

Herbert Siguenza, the Rep’s artist/physical poet in residence, plays countless persons, from evil to surprisingly generous. He makes each distinct and fully formed in seconds. In his scenes and elsewhere, it looks as if Seguenza might have had a hand — and maybe his pen — in the funnier shtick and dialogue.

Place

San Diego Repertory Theatre

79 Horton Plaza, San Diego

Into the Beautiful North, by Karen Zacharias, based on the novel by Luis Alberto Urrea.

Directed by Sam Woodhouse; cast: Kenia Ramirez, Jennifer Paredes, Bryant Hernandez, Catalina Maynard, Jorge Rodriguez, Herbert Siguenza, Xavi Moreno, Javier Guerrero; scenic and projection designs, Ian Wallace, costumes, Jennifer Brawn Gittings, lighting, Lonnie Alcaraz, sound, Matt Lescault-wood, original music and soundscape, Michael Roth, fight choreographer, George Ye

Playing through April 23; Sunday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.; sdrep.org.

Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all

Previous article

San Diego in books - first Datsun dealer to sell 100 cars in a month, Bob Woodward on Belushi

La Jolla's historian, Edmund Wilson on the Hotel del Coronado
Next Article

Ralph + Advil = “Radvil”

Kwillipers would be a pretty cool name for a cat
In Into the Beautiful North, Oz is America, but seen for the first time. - Image by Daren Scott
In Into the Beautiful North, Oz is America, but seen for the first time.

If Tres Camarones (“three shrimp”) actually existed, the small fishing village would be about 35 miles south of Mazatlan on the Gulf of California. According to Into the Beautiful North — Karen Zacharias’s new play based on Luis Alberto Urrea’s wonderful novel — almost all the men left to seek their fortunes in the U.S. Of the few that remain, Tacho, who runs a cantina, is gay, and Garcia-Garcia, spent at age 65, operates the only movie house. He can only show a film for two days. After that the town runs out of paying customers.

Into the Beautiful North

A corrupt state narco and a scar-faced drug dealer decide to make Tres Camarones their new headquarters. What to do? How to stop the bandits from destroying the village? A screening of The Magnificent Seven gives young Nayeli an inspiration. She, the bravely flamboyant Tacho, and Vampi (a gleefully nihilistic Goth) will cross the border “into the beautiful north.” They will interview men from Mexico, preferably cops and soldiers, who want to come back.

“We are going,” Nayeli shouts with conviction, “to bring home the Magnificent Seven.”

Nayeli will also seek her father. He’s in Kankakee, Illinois. He’s doing well, he wrote, though “everything passes.” What follows is a Latino Wizard of Oz, set in 2008. The quest is as arduous, if not more, than the movie, and Oz is America, but seen for the first time.

Along the way the trio picks up Kiko at the Tijuana dump. Ex-military and “baddest of the trash pickers,” he’s the opposite of the Cowardly Lion. He’s so macho, he’s convinced he’s a comic strip hero — Atomiko — in need of a cause. Don Quixote streams through his DNA.

The quartet has adventures: some funny (as when they see a lawn with sprinklers and Nayeli discovers that “The United States has grass!”; or when Atomiko learns he can wash his hands in steaming hot water); some horrific, on both sides of the border; some mystical, as when snow falls on Nayeli and Atomiko for the first time.

Now for the obligatory “it ain’t the book” paragraph. Born in TJ, Urrea grew up in San Diego (studied writing at UCSD), and has a keener-than-most novelist’s eye for both sides of the border. In page after page, he describes everyday sights and locations through fresh eyes — always revealing something new about places you thought you knew, be it Colonia Libertad, site of most border crossings, or Clairemont (where everything “went in circles, from cul-de-sac to cul-de-sac, with those dead palm trees above your head, and you never found a way out”).

The Magnificent Seven spends at least the first 45 minutes rounding up the band. The novel spends that much time in Tres Camarones. It delineates the characters, local politics, dreams, and illusions. By the time Nayeli and the others set out for the U.S., Urrea makes the town and the quest matter a great deal.

Theater’s constraints make the play cover ground quicker, but in fits and starts. If the novel were a trip from San Diego to Escondido, it would go up I-5, check out the flat mesas and low lagoons to the west, like riding a slow roller-coaster. Then it would head east up Lomas Santa Fe Drive, tour Rancho Santa Fe and Lake Hodges, and enjoy the sights and three or four geographical changes along the way. The play just zooms north on I-15.

The script has issues with tone. In the book, the courageous quartet crosses the border twice: under a fence and through a tunnel. They’re harassed and deprived at almost every step, and their success is often in serious doubt (homophobia tracks gay Tacho, for example, wherever he goes). But the play, which omits several characters, prefers the comic to the potentially tragic.

Into the Beautiful North is part of the National New Play Network’s “rolling world premiere” series. It opens in several cities around the same time. I’d be curious to see the others, because I suspect they couldn’t top the San Diego Rep’s version.

Michael Roth’s original score makes it a musical or, more accurately, a play with music. Ardent, Latino-inflected songs shoot energy into a sometimes flagging pace. Roth’s soundscape and Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound design add dimension to Ian Wallace’s functional set: adobe walls, with the tiara-like suggestion of Tres Camarones’ only remaining church. A stage-within-the-stage includes a rear screen, where Wallace’s projections add realistic touches. A turntable, cacti sliding by, rows of chairs coming and going, add comic touches.

A fine ensemble cast directed by Sam Woodhouse gives the piece the best possible chance. It would be near impossible to go wrong with Jennifer Paredes (one of SD’s most in-demand actors) as defiant Vampi; Jorge Rodriguez as fearsome and funny Atomiko; Bryant Hernandez, a humorous and touching Tacho; Catalina Maynard as Irma, Tres Camarones’ most famous bowler; Xavi Moreno and Javier Guerrero sharp and effective in various roles; and young Kenia Ramirez as Nayeli, Dorothy of Oz, only much more visionary and a master of karate.

Herbert Siguenza, the Rep’s artist/physical poet in residence, plays countless persons, from evil to surprisingly generous. He makes each distinct and fully formed in seconds. In his scenes and elsewhere, it looks as if Seguenza might have had a hand — and maybe his pen — in the funnier shtick and dialogue.

Place

San Diego Repertory Theatre

79 Horton Plaza, San Diego

Into the Beautiful North, by Karen Zacharias, based on the novel by Luis Alberto Urrea.

Directed by Sam Woodhouse; cast: Kenia Ramirez, Jennifer Paredes, Bryant Hernandez, Catalina Maynard, Jorge Rodriguez, Herbert Siguenza, Xavi Moreno, Javier Guerrero; scenic and projection designs, Ian Wallace, costumes, Jennifer Brawn Gittings, lighting, Lonnie Alcaraz, sound, Matt Lescault-wood, original music and soundscape, Michael Roth, fight choreographer, George Ye

Playing through April 23; Sunday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.; sdrep.org.

Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

San Franciscans and others driving San Diego's real estate

Tired of the homeless along Van Ness
Next Article

College-Rolando Library could end up with no parking

Friendly deal with College Lutheran now in hands of Blue Falcon
Comments
0

Be the first to leave a comment.

Sign in to comment

Sign in

Ask a Hipster — Advice you didn't know you needed Big Screen — Movie commentary Blurt — Music's inside track Booze News — San Diego spirits Classical Music — Immortal beauty Classifieds — Free and easy Cover Stories — Front-page features Drinks All Around — Bartenders' drink recipes Excerpts — Literary and spiritual excerpts Feast! — Food & drink reviews Feature Stories — Local news & stories From the Archives — Spotlight on the past Golden Dreams — Talk of the town Letters — Our inbox [email protected] — Local movie buffs share favorites Movie Reviews — Our critics' picks and pans Musician Interviews — Up close with local artists Neighborhood News from Stringers — Hyperlocal news News Ticker — News & politics Obermeyer — San Diego politics illustrated Outdoors — Weekly changes in flora and fauna Overheard in San Diego — Eavesdropping illustrated Poetry — The old and the new Reader Travel — Travel section built by travelers Reading — The hunt for intellectuals Roam-O-Rama — SoCal's best hiking/biking trails San Diego Beer — Inside San Diego suds SD on the QT — Almost factual news Sheep and Goats — Places of worship Special Issues — The best of Street Style — San Diego streets have style Surf Diego — Real stories from those braving the waves Tin Fork — Silver spoon alternative Under the Radar — Matt Potter's undercover work Unforgettable — Long-ago San Diego Unreal Estate — San Diego's priciest pads Your Week — Daily event picks
4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
Close