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Radar L.A. Review: 'St. Jude' At The Kirk Douglas Theatre

Jenn Velez |
September 24, 2013 | 9:54 p.m. PDT

Contributing Writer

Luis Alfaro in "St. Jude," part of the Radar L.A. festival. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Luis Alfaro in "St. Jude," part of the Radar L.A. festival. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
In Luis Alfaro's most recent solo-performance "St. Jude," one of the most powerful voices in Latino/a theatre struggles to strip bare his soul and tell all to his beloved dying father. Why? Because Alfaro realizes that his father doesn’t really know him.

Alfaro’s performance had me going through a rollercoaster of emotions, gasping through cathartic break-downs and laughter, feeling connected to my own parents in ways that made me know they, too, do not know me.

As with Alfaro, I, too, am Chicana. During my undergrad at UC San Diego, I was an active student leader, organizing around issues of race and gender. It was challenging trying to explain everything to my parents and we even disagreed on certain social issues. For this reason, I resonated with Alfaro’s story. He too has been in the front lines of activism, advocating for the queer working class Latino/a community through out his time as a playwright, and as he shared his story it was apparent that he too struggled with the same thing I did. For Alfaro to try to tell his father one of his darkest secrets of being sexual abused after years of silence is courageous because many would just find it pointless.

During his performance, Alfaro read his script in front of projected images that represented his past. The flipping of pages initially distracted, but became less noticeable with each joke. Humor works for Alfaro: he cracked Mexican jokes without seeming cliché. It doesn’t matter that some of them are in Spanish, because his expressions still get the house laughing—he is after all a “Mexican” as opposed to a Mexican't. At times, it felt as though he was reading from a childhood or teenage diary. His voice took us back to his youth when he reminisced about working in fields, the bullying from family members he experienced and the sexual encounters he had after running away at the age of 16.

Alfaro’s emotional break-downs were so intimate and private that it was almost uncomfortable to be present in them. He left blood on the page, literally. He pricked his finger, just like diabetes forced his father to prick his in order to mark his footsteps on a map being projected that was the foundation for his storytelling. It is this emotional intensity that brought us into his pain.

"St. Jude" is the journey of leaving home and facing our parents--acknowledging that we all have them, and that we face them, even if never with as much honesty and warmth as Alfaro binds us together, memorably. 

"St. Jude" is playing through October 6 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre (9820 Washington Blvd., Culver City). Tickets are $20-$25. More information can be found at CenterTheatreGroup.org.

More coverage of the Radar L.A. Festival 2013 can be found here.

Contact Contribuiting Writer Jenn here or follow her on Twitter.



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