In our arts column – In Review – Victoria Moy writes about plays, shows, and films that focus on lives as lived by the different ethnicities. This week Moy interviews playwright Oliver Mayer and director Edgar Landa, both USC professors, about their new show “Blood Match,” presented by Urban Theatre Movement at the Sacred Fools Theater (formerly the Lillian Theater). The play is about a love triangle that forms in the heroin fields of Sinaloa, Mexico, exploring the deeply sexual and spiritual connections between people who harvest the drugs and the otherworldly powers of passion and desire that makes them put their lives on the line.
Oliver, what was the inspiration for “Blood Match”?
Oliver Mayer: Dean David Bridel from USC’s School of Dramatic Arts asked me to consider translating and adapting [Frederico García] Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre to the present day in Mexico. I said yes of course, and almost immediately thought of Sinaloa, where poppies are grown for heroin. This led me to Jesus Malverde, folk saint of drug traffickers, and La Santa Muerte, who looks after border crossers. My mind is musical first, and I heard Gloria Trevi (the Mexican Madonna) as well as the TV theme song to El Chapulin Colorado. That was more than enough to get me going, and soon with all the changes the play became my own.
Why is this play important now?
OM: It’s so cool to tell the story from a decidedly Mexican POV, using contemporary Mexican mores, and having fun with the language: Mexicans use language very cleverly and musically. But on another level, it’s important for us as citizens to witness tragedy outside of museum theatre; it opens our hearts and forces us to be compassionate to others who may seem foreign or different. We need this desperately in the USA.
Edgar Landa: The play puts actors of color front and center. That, in and of itself, is a primary reason for me to work on this play.
What should we know about [Frederico García] Lorca?
OM: Lorca can look Shakespeare and Sophocles dead in the eye. He is at least equal as a tragedian, and as a poet he’s hotter. If he had not been murdered by Spanish fascists in 1936 (80 years ago), it blows my mind to think what works of mastery he might have created. He understood women better than just about any other great writer that I can think of. I’m honored to look up to him and to share elements of his staggeringly powerful play.
There is a guitarist and singer who perform and sing beautiful songs throughout the play. The singer is listed in the program as “The Moon”. Can you talk a little about his role?
OM: Actually, The Moon in this play is also Malverde, and is played by Roy Cardenas. He’s a wonderful actor. Friends have described him in the part as our Jiminy Cricket!
Who is Malverde and what should we know about him? What is the significance of one actor being Moon, Malverde, and musician all at the same time?
OM: In the original play, Lorca used theatricalizations of The Moon and Death. They are very poetic and powerful, but feel maybe a bit old-fashioned now.
I made the Death character a version of Gloria Trevi, who has had a crazy and out-of-control career, but who has somehow stayed a goddess — wildly attractive despite all. And I decided to make The Moon a vision of Jesus Malverde, because he is the patron saint of this part of the country, all-seeing and all-powerful, cold and unmoved by death and murder. I gave him the power to use the moon’s rays to light the lovers and give them away to the Bridegroom and those pursuing them.
Did you have your wife Marlene Forte in mind when you wrote the role of Mother? What is it like to have your wife perform in your play?
OM: I actually wrote the part of the Maid for Marlene! It’s how I see her — sexy, funny, bossy. But Marlene told me she’d prefer to play the Mother this time, and she was right. It’s a towering role — also surprisingly funny and bossy, while unrelentingly sorrowful. I can’t imagine anyone playing it better than Marlene.
What should Alhambrans know about “Blood Match”?
OM: There are lots of Sinaloans in and around Alhambra. They like to listen to banda and narco corridos, and the guys like to wear cowboy hats. So do I!
EL: Come check it out!
What would you like the audience to walk away with after they see the show?
EL: I’d love for the audience to walk away feeling like they visited a familiar place even though their experience may be entirely different than that of the characters in the play.
OM: You’re going to need a drink! It’s an intense 75 minutes. Hopefully you’ll feel your emotions on your skin.
written by Oliver Mayer
directed by Edgar Landa
Presented and Produced by Urban Theatre Movement
Starring Diana Romo, Christopher Gavilanes, Jaime Zevallos, Marlene Forte, Luis Kelly-Duarte, Evelyn Lorena, Jean Murillo, Gisla Stringer, Emmanuel Plascencia, C.W. Smith, Argelia Vanessa O’Neal, Marilyn Fitoria, Gloria Laino, Roy Cardenas, Joshua Duron
Sacred Fools Theatre
(formerly known as The Lillian Theatre)
1078 Lillian Way
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays 2pm and 6pm; Until Sunday, November 20.
General Admission: $20; Student with ID: $18—————————————————————————————————————
Victoria Moy is a New York-born, Los Angeles-based writer. She has an MFA from University of Southern California, where she studied playwriting and screenwriting, and has a B.A. from Dartmouth College in Theater. She is also the author of the book Fighting for the Dream.
Editor’s note: The interviews were condensed and edited.