The Miracle Theatre Group consistently brings thought-provoking, boundary-expanding work to the Portland stage. The edges of their performances can be a little rough, but you can forgive someone a few missteps if they're dancing their heart out.
Their production of Rosalba y los Llaveros is no exception. Presented here with supertitles, Emilio Carballido's play—first produced in 1950—has been hailed as the first "modern" Mexican comedy. Set in Veracruz in 1949, it's the story of Rosalba (Nelda Reyes), a headstrong young woman from Mexico City who visits her country cousins and finds that she has just as much to learn from her "provincial" relatives as she thinks they have to learn from her.
Given his cast of two-dimensional characters and the "zany" scenarios he places them in, Carballido could well be known, stateside, as Mexico's Neil Simon. The 60-year-old play's relevance to contemporary life may be a bit of a stretch, but even Biloxi Blues had cultural resonance at one point in America's literary history. Rosalba is an important piece of Mexico's theatrical history, and it would remain unknown in Portland if it weren't for the Miracle's efforts. Taken by itself, Rosalba's over-the-top shenanigans would be a little hard to stomach. But within the context of the Miracle's body of production work, it becomes yet another chapter in the story of Latino theater they're continually unfolding.
On Mark Haack's stunning set, bold colors and incredible attention to detail are an excellent match for a number of strong performances. Chief among these is Gilberto Martín del Campo's nuanced and committed portrayal of Rosalba's cousin, Lázaro. The large cast hosts many newcomers, but director Daniel Jáquez has created a great ensemble that works together to smooth out the rougher spots.
At the end of the day, Miracle Theatre has put out yet another solid, well-intentioned play that adds another layer of complexity to Portland's theater scene. In 2007, Rosalba might not break any artistic barriers or revolutionize the world of theater—but the Miracle is yet again giving us a new theater experience that can appeal to all ages and resonate across cultures.