THE MIRACLE THEATRE'S Day of the Dead show is a Halloween-weekend tradition, an annual, bilingual celebration of life, death, and Portland's Hispanic culture. This year's original play examines the immigrant experience during the Great Depression, at a time when men traversed the country in search of work, federal dollars were building Timberline Lodge, and Hollywood offered the illusive promise of a better life. The show focuses on a Mexican couple who moved to Oregon from their California home after that state, due to job shortages, began "repatriating" Mexican Americans—sending them back to Mexico whether, one character wryly observes, they were Mexican or not. Throw in a wide-eyed white girl from back East, who made her way across the country in hopes of becoming a star in Hollywood, only to wind up starving and stranded in the woods of Oregon, and you've got yourself a tiny little melting pot, West Coast style.
As several cultures and storylines collide, the characters reach out to one another via song. Show tunes, Mexican dance songs, and dust bowl ballads mingle in a soundtrack that's lively, familiar, and touchingly personal.
The best productions at the Miracle are never perfect, but a mis-strummed guitar or an out-of-tune voice never detract from the charm of their work. There's a palpable sense of passion, commitment, and investment here—a humor and warmth that more than make up for any weaknesses.