At the theater: “Electricidad” and “In the Heights”

“At the Theater” is a feature in which I check out plays by Latino writers. The article is intended to be a look at the author’s work and not a review of the theatrical production – so no comments about acting, lighting or staging. I saw the Fort Worth-based Artes de la Rosa’s production of the play Electricidad and a national tour production of In the Heights.

Life in the barrio has been a constant theme in Latino literature – and it’s the setting of two powerful, and very different, plays that have received nationwide attention and are now showing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

In Luis Alfaro’s Electricidad, the barrio is at its rawest, filled with gangsters and cholos who can’t escape their ‘hood. Electricidad is a young woman who sits outside her home, protecting the body of her murdered father. Based on the Sophocles’ Greek tragedy Electra, a trio of neighborhood women serve as the Greek chorus while Electricidad deals with her mother, sister and others. Depending on your point of view, the play shows barrio life at its most realistic or it perpetuates the worst stereotypes of Latinos.

By contrast, In the Heights is so joyful, one could think it takes place on another planet. The play actually takes place near a bodega in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. The story by Quiara Alegría Hudes (she also wrote 26 Miles) depicts the lives of its residents, who break into upbeat songs written by Lin-Manuel Miranda. At the end of the show, you wished you lived in this neighborhood where everyone is your friend and every problem has a solution. The show deservedly won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

About the plays: If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, you can see excellent productions of these plays until March 25. Electricidad is produced by the Artes de la Rosa Cultural Center for the Arts at the Rose Marine Theater in Fort Worth. For tickets, click here. In the Heights, which is on a national tour until June, is playing at the Winspear Opera House, part of the AT&T Performing Arts Center, in Dallas. For tickets, click here.

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