ALMOST WITHOUT EXCEPTION, holiday theater is the worst. Whether it's a man in tights mugging his way though David Sedaris or the inevitable unasked-for variety show, holiday theater is by and large a spirit-numbing parade of pandering, manipulative cash-grabs. (I get it, it pays the bills.)
An exception is the Miracle Theatre's Day of the Dead show, which every year offers an original work investigating the relationship between the living and the dead. The quality of the work varies—and this year's wasn't one of my favorites—but it's always refreshing to see a show that steps so far outside the typical, vaguely Christian holiday offerings.
This year's offering, directed by Arturo Martinini, is rooted in the notion that "life is a dream, and death is a passage to an awakening consciousness of reality," as the director's notes put it. These lofty themes are presented via three interlocking stories, and the show's success ebbs and flows depending on which storyline is at the forefront.
The most engaging moments in Raíz are provided by Zoe Rudman and Enrique Andrade as a pair of Charlie Chaplin-inspired clowns; Rudman, in particular, demonstrates a huge gift for physical, nonverbal comedy. Other storylines involve frustrated Aztec gods and a love-struck young couple; the Aztec gods have pretty rad headdresses, but I didn't get much out of the "rituals" showcased here, and an implied connection between Aztec gods and Hollywood stars just feels forced. Those scrappy clowns are delightful, though, and their nonverbal bits are easily the show's highlight.