A Raw, Latina Coming-of-Age Story
Review of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter at Seattle Repertory Theatre
Written by Bervelyn Lopez Bernabe during an Arts Criticism workshop at Evergreen High School
From drama and comedy to real-life issues. A rebellious daughter and an obedient one (or so it seemed). The beauty and sadness of it all. The play adaptation of the novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez has it all and more. Brought to you by Seattle Repertory Theatre and playwright Issac Gomez, we explore the life of Julia Reyes, a Mexican American 15-year-old teen, as she navigates life after the tragic death of her older sister, Olga. Dealing with her grief, school, life at home, and more, she soon discovers that Olga might not be the perfect saint daughter we all thought she was. This magnificent, well-written play leaves the audience wanting more and at the edge of their seat with the actors, beautiful art, and wonderful portrayal of the story.
The play succeeded in making fans die of laughter, gasp from all the drama, and tear up with sadness. Actress Karen Rodriguez, who played the main character Julia Reyes, did absolutely amazing in portraying the emotional wreck and thought process of a normal 15-year-old Mexican American girl dealing with depression and anxiety. Throughout the play, Rodriguez never fails to stutter or forget her lines. She makes you feel empathy and sadness for Julia throughout the play and never once breaks character. She sure puts on a great show for the audience, making the audience in their seats feel the need to want to understand Julia as a character and person. Rodriguez has many lines and choreography to learn not only as the main character/narrator but in fact, performed flawlessly on stage. Sofía Raquel Sánchez, who plays Julia's older sister Olga, follows Julia in bits and pieces of the show, constantly showing up in the background of scenes. The rest of the main characters: Amá (Jazmín Corona), Apá (Eddie Martinez), Lorena (Leslie Sophia Pérez), and Juanga (Marco Antonio Tzunux) gave their raw emotions and effort to make this project truly come to life. At times, the show became so surreal that you forget you're even watching a play.
From the dark theater, the actual stage is a unique, yet simple view. With a rotating floor to represent characters moving and different perspectives, to the curtain made of bamboo separating backstage, actors, and the audience. But let's not also forget the colorful chairs and props. Behind the scenes, scenic designer Efren Delgadillo Jr. said that he wanted to share Julia’s stories, and with that, claimed his mind “went to images of installation artists and muralists.” Delgadillo went with a mural by an artist Joseph Perez who goes by the name "Sentrock” located in the Little Village Neighborhood, Chicago. This was an inspiration Delgadillo wanted to enhance the authenticity of Julia's world in the play. In order to make it happen, scenic artists behind this project had to individually glue bamboo strands and spray paint the design outline to make it come to life. This made it easier for actors to come for a scene and exit easily. As well as choosing a less saturated version of the colors in order to make the costumes and props stand out.
But we don't just see Julia's world in the colors of the background, we also see it in the movement and music in the scenes. Part of the stage was made up of colorful circles that turned to make the actors move counter and clockwise depending on the scene. Delgadillo claimed they're “a big mechanism in capturing Júlia’s psychic; speed up time, slow down time, kind of disorient, and enhance with movement.” These artistic elements played a huge part in deepening the story and visuals of the show while also capturing raw emotion through meaningful depictions of the main character Julia.
The overall general storytelling of this play adaptation is a matter of personal taste. Some people might say that they liked the novel by Erika Sanchez better because it described more inner detail and took more time into Julia's overall storyline and thinking. While others perhaps might say they liked the Issac Gomez adaptation because it brought more visual ideas and was entertaining to watch. But in general, we cannot deny the overall beauty and effort put into this project no matter how the audience portrays the narrative. From the director, costume designer, and scenic designer, to sound and lighting people plus the rest of the creative team behind this theater show, they all helped this story have some meaning to the audiences in their seats. Incorporating all the key elements in Sanchez's novel into a shorter but still detailed and emotional visual, helps past readers and new audiences get a serious perspective on Julia's story.
No matter how you as an audience member choose to let this story sink in or how you decide to hate or love it, the play adaptation of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is an amazing piece to consider watching. It surely has you on the edge of your seat when watching it unfold. From teens to adults, if you enjoy a raw, emotional, and amusing coming-of-age story then this is the play for you. Not only does its artwork, theatrical talent, and presentation make it unique and entertaining but it's also a wonderful experience to come across for many teens and Latinos that can possibly relate.