Review of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter at Seattle Repertory Theatre
Written by Nura Sherif during an Arts Criticism workshop at Evergreen High School
The play production of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was spectacular, featuring exceptional actors and compelling storytelling. The story follows a Mexican American girl named Julia Reyes who had to shoulder the death of her sister, Olga, who died in an accident. This pushed her parents to expect Julia to be just as perfect of a Mexican daughter as Olga was when she was alive, as a way of coping with their grief. This story showcases the struggles of family expectations, and grief, and how they can impact your relationships with others. Although it’s an entertaining, beautiful production, fans of the book will feel a lack of character development and rushed plotlines in comparison to the book.
The play came alive with wonderfully used music such as trendy pop songs at the party scenes and Hispanic songs during family event scenes, such as the quinceanera. Music and sound effects punctuated transitions setting the scene and tone for every moment and discovery.
While all the actors were effective, I particularly admire the actress Sofía Raquel Sánchez and their ability to portray Olga and various other roles such as Angie, Jazmyn, and a hotel receptionist. They perfectly executed each role. I hadn't even realized it was the same person doing all those parts.
As praiseworthy as the acting and production of the play were, the story pacing in my personal opinion was rushed. Numerous scenes critical to highlighting Julia’s development as a character were not included in the play, leaving many questions unanswered for the audience members whether or not they had read the novel before seeing the play. For example, the production entirely skipped over moments that were vital to her coming to terms with her mental health, which made me wonder how Julia had coped with the severe depression she was diagnosed with. Did she just simply get over it? How did she come to accept her health? She was not given time to heal and recover her mental health alongside the therapist she was supposed to have who helped her view things differently. Also missing, was a scene depicting Julia’s real first kiss— not with dream boat Connor, but with Lorena’s cousin, a creeper trying to “score.” This scene developed Julia’s deep sense of feminism and distrust towards men. They also cut off a scene showing her vulnerability and breaking apart from being controlled so harshly by her mother which pulled my heartstrings when I read it. If it were to have been included in the play, I’m sure more people would come to see Julia isn’t any sort of antagonist, she’s simply a broken girl who lost her sister and is just looking for a chance to have her voice heard.
I resonated with the way the play showed how to be an immigrant teenager with expectations of being perfect weighed on their shoulders. Karen Rodriguez accurately represented the complexity of Julia’s character, showing bits of Julia’s desperation and need to prove something, the grief she had felt losing Olga, and her quick wit, shown in her frequent aside comments.
I can understand why many people strongly dislike Julia, seeing how blunt she usually is and unafraid to express her opinions and beliefs. But that’s why I appreciate her character. For many of us living under immigrant parents, we have to learn to hold our tongue and keep our opinions to ourselves if it doesn't sit well with the family no matter how sexist or homophobic they may get. The play invites us to ask the question: Is being a perfect child worth losing yourself for?
Overall, the play was heartwarming. I had a marvelous experience seeing the characters and their stories come to life through the actors and staging. This play will most definitely reach into the hearts of “perfect” immigrant daughters just like me.