Miracle Theatre Group blazes into their 24th season with a pitch-perfect production of Mariela in the Desert, the Northwest premiere of the play by Karen Zacarías. This production, by turns enlightening, hilarious, and heart wrenching, is a joyous reminder that we are ridiculously fortunate to have the Miracle here in Portland. They produce newer work sooner than the larger theaters, and they bring an honesty, professional dedication, and commitment to their craft that is hard to find in a town this size.
Mariela in the Desert is a story of strangled creativity and great potential, of familial love and cruelty, and the fine lines that separate them—or don't. It is 1950, in the desert of northern Mexico. Mariela (Miracle Artistic Director Olga Sanchez) and her husband José (newcomer Phil Stockton), rising artists of the 1930s, left Mexico City for a ranch in the desert so that José could unleash his creativity. But the move that José intended to vault him forward has ended up holding the entire family back, and the creativity of both artists has dried and withered under the desert sun. Mariela sublimated her own talent and passion to care for her family, and José grew bitter and disengaged, succumbing to a debilitating disease. Their daughter Blanca (Ina Strauss) ran away to Mexico City, and son Carlos (Kurt Conroyd), long dead, lives vividly among them as a ghost and a memory.
Indeed, memories and ghosts of the past weigh heavily on this family. Unanswered questions, past mistakes, and misguided attempts to give and receive love make the silences in this house louder than the arguments. The only person each member of the family can communicate with honestly is Blanca's American boyfriend, Adam (David Sikking). As the outsider, he is the only one who isn't weighed down by the baggage of the past.
The entire cast performs in harmony in this production, working as an ensemble to bring fully dimensional characters to the stage. Mark Haack has created yet another jaw-droppingly beautiful set, which absolutely glows under Kristeen Crosser's lighting. The beauty, desolation, and vibrant ache of the desert come to life on the Miracle stage for this production, which really shouldn't be missed. If you've never been to the Miracle, start now.