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'La Llorona' - WNCC Theatre presents modern retelling of Hispanic folktale
October 07, 2015 Lisa Betz   

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Photo by Lisa Betz/Gering Citizen - Irma and Carlos (played by Brandelyyn Mendoza and Nick McDaniel) comfort each other after Carlos arrives home having lost his job in a restaurant. Though Carlos is an architect, work is scarce in the Mexican economy after the changes brought by the North American Trade Agreement.

With the arrival of 37-year-old director/instructor Robert Thompson, Jr., WNCC’s Theatre Department is experiencing a new wave of enthusiasm with the season’s first production, La Llorona: A Love Story, by Kathleen Culebro, set to open on Friday, Oct. 9 at 7:30 p.m.

During the interview process with WNCC Thompson learned the community was 25 percent Hispanic in population. It was this fact that gave him the idea to represent the culture. The figure of La Llorona is highly recognized in Mexican culture.

“It’s a bedtime story,” said Thompson. “Children are told, ‘be good, eat your vegetables, or La Llorona will get you,’” he said.

The WNCC production of La Llorona, A Love Story, is a modern day retelling of the conquest of Mexico, a story of love, tradition, superstition and cultural misunderstanding. Two couples, one American and one Mexican, are the principal characters in the story, set in modern day Mexico.

American entrepreneur Jeffrey’s love for his wife drives him to do anything to make her happy. Irma’s love for her husband causes her to ignore the warnings of La Llorona, who tries to tell her that the actions she’s taking to save her family may have dire consequences.

American couple Jeffrey and Liz rent Irma and Carlos’ home, providing financial relief to the couple while Carlos seeks work as an architect. The Mexican couple becomes servant to the American renters, causing some of the play’s tension.

“The play is a moving tragedy attacking the growing concerns of interculturalism as well as income inequality,” said Thompson. “It asks us not to be a passive observer but to recognize the issues in the play as relevant to our current state of affairs and start a dialogue within the community to raise social awareness,” said Thompson.

Cast member Brandelynn Mendoza, who plays Irma, said she appreciates the opportunity to delve into her Hispanic roots. “I grew up with La LLorona as a child,” she said. “I was told she would get me while I slept if I didn’t behave.” But Mendoza says the message of the play is more than a folktale. “It’s also about the Mexican economy. I didn’t know it was like that,” she said. “The differences in America, quoting one of Irma’s lines, ‘The conqueror comes and makes promises that it never keeps.’ That being America to the terrible Mexican economy,” she said. “I didn’t know there was such a problem until I joined this play. It’s definitely an eye opener.”

Andrew Smith, who plays the American businessman, Jeffrey, said the most surprising thing for him in playing the character is how unaware he is of being racist. “He’s a businessman, he doesn’t think about it, he just tells other people what to do,” he said. “Some of the things he says are terrible but he doesn’t know he is being rude, he is completely unaware of his racism.

Other members of the cast are Marisa Plummer as Liz, Nick McDaniel as Carlos, and Rachel Karpen as La Llorona.

La Llorona: A Love Story will play Friday and Saturday, Oct. 9-10 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 11, at 2 p.m. in the WNCC Little Theatre. Performances are free for WNCC students and faculty. Tickets are $5 for the community. Tickets can be purchased in the business office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. or at the door prior to the performance.

For more information, call 308-635-3606.
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