A Brave Portrayal of Mental Health

Review of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter at Seattle Repertory Theatre

Written by Krystalee Hernandez Olvera during an Arts Criticism workshop at Evergreen High School

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The play I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is about Julia finding herself after being in the shadow of her sister Olga “the perfect Mexican daughter.” It shows her journey and curiosity after Olga’s death, learning more about herself, her culture, mental health, and the mystery her sister left behind.

The play successfully shows the audience Julia’s emotions. Just like in the book, the author lets us into Julia’s head allowing us to read all her thoughts, and she goes on her own journey. For example, throughout the play Julia constantly pauses in the moment and turns to the audience to share all the emotions she’s feeling. This helps the audience understand her and connect with the character. The lights and extra effects throw in more emotion through visuals, like the bubbles making it seem like she’s actually in water. This is shown when she felt like she was lost and drowning, the lights turned dark, the spotlight was on her showing how she was alone, all eyes on her. Her determination is demonstrated as she keeps on swimming and swimming without getting anywhere. Many people could relate to that moment when they seem to be struggling, this hooks the viewers in the more as they connect to the play. Music was important to reveal her mood as well. When she was feeling happy, all you could hear was upbeat music like a party.

Another success in the play was the use of setting, how everything was at its own pace waiting on its moment to show up or hide. For example when she was on the flight, we were all focused on Julia and how she was feeling about leaving everything behind. The set was slowly setting to Mexico as the chairs and table slowly made its way down on strings, before you knew it she was having dinner with her family. Another good use in change of setting, was using the rotating floor and lights. For example one movement she’s at home, she seems all depressed and in her head, it spun to the bad now hiding in the dark while Julia is still talking about her feelings. Giving other people on set time to pull it out and set new things that will seem to magically appear within seconds.

The play showed the topic of mental health really well and in a way that it wouldn’t be too drastic on the audience. Throughout the play the audience can put together that Julia doesn’t have the best mindset about herself since she isn’t “the perfect Mexican daughter.” All this leads to her suicide attempt, which is something most plays and books would usually stay away from since it’s very sensitive topic for most people. In that scene they didn’t show blood, they used red lights and flashes of darkness to show how traumatic the event was for Julia without being graphic.

In conclusion, the play was a success with showing Julia’s story. They did this by showing her emotions through lights, music, and talking to the audience. They use a good pace of change in setting, everything someone would’ve imagined in mind when viewing, and talks about mental health in an empathetic way.

Photo Credit: Karen Rodriguez in I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter at Seattle Rep. Photo by Nate Watters.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Criticism workshop at Evergreen High School in Emily Acquino's Language Arts classes, taught by Press Corps teaching artists Beth Pollack and Marquicia Dominguez.

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