A Visual Work of Art

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

Written by Tammy Dao during an Arts Criticism workshop at Evergreen High School

4 MD Paint 1

The theater adaptation of the book I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a great depiction of this novel written by Erika L. Sanchez. The book adaptation into the play takes the main elements and themes of the novel, such as family, untold secrets, and culture. Using those themes in the story and elevating it into a visual work of art for both those who already enjoyed the book and for those who haven't read it at all.

This play stays really accurate to the book starring the main character Julia Reyes living in Chicago alongside her parents and her recently dead older sister Olga. The story is set in Julia’s last few high school years featuring not only her school life, but her life within the city, and her home life with her immigrant parents.

Like any adaptation, it would be hard to stay completely faithful to the source, however, this play perfectly captures the story of Julia’s life while making subtle alterations to scenes for the viewers, such as changing Olga’s affair conversations on laptop emails to phone texts, using more recent music for scenes, and making references to modern media such as TikTok. This made it more enjoyable to a younger audience because it is topics and content that they know. There were a couple scenarios in the book that were not acted on stage like how an old man helped Julia by walking her home from a dangerous situation and Julia confronting Olga’s paramour about the affair. Although these scenes were not included inside the play, my understanding of the overall story was not hindered at all, it was still very much more enjoyable and comprehensible even without every part of the book mentioned.

Their use with the curtains, lighting, and the rotating platform on stage really enhanced and made dramatic scenes more immersive throughout the play. Lighting the curtain from certain angles set many different moods for the current scene, lighting the curtain from the front would give a neutral feeling displaying a bird-like art figure, the usage of blue-cooler lights from the bottom gave an underwater somber feeling to the setting, changing the pattern of the bird wings to salmon or fishes. Lighting the curtains from the back gave a watery, web-like pattern, feeling heavy. Though there weren’t many props throughout the entire play, their usage of the very few that were actually on stage was really creative, and with that, the transitions between different places and settings were very smooth. The lack of props in the whole play, they made up with the strategic placement of dramatic lighting.

Overall, the play adaptation for I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was really well made and created an enjoyable storytelling experience following the main character. If you don't want to spend a lot of more hours reading the book, you can just watch the play and still experience the same story and characters in a more immersive and interactive environment.

Lead photo credit: A member of the I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter production team working on the beaded curtain mural at Seattle Rep. Photo by Sayed Alamy.

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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