El Paso Blue - Reviews
"El Paso Blue" part tragedy, part comedy
By Barbara Baily
Grants Pass Daily
Courier - Entertainment
Would the world be a better place if we could put ethnicity behind
No doubt. But then think of the loss in subject matter to our novelists
In "El Paso Blue," which opened at the Oregon Shakespeare
Festival on Sunday, Octavio Solis examines the ethnic divide in American
life from a Mexican perspective, and demonstrates in doing so a consideralble
dramatic talent and a hightly developed sense of irony.
Solis' protagonist Alejandro (Thom Rivera), a small-time dope dealer,
has achieved a dubious triumph over his self-hatred by marrying Sylvie
(Linda Halaska), a blond beauty-pageant also-ran from Dallas who
could well be Jon-Benet Ramsey grown up and disillusioned.
Unfortunately for Al and Sylvie, just when they're settling into
a mutually fulfilling life of alcoholism and reruns of "Hogan's
Heroes," Al's hapless Anglo buddy Duane (Ray Porter) inadvertently
leaves Al's borrowed leather jacket behind at the scene of a bungled
The jacket has Al's name written in it and, because Duane on a
previous occasion stepped in front of a bullet meant for Al, Al reluctantly
agrees to take the rap for Duane, who as a repeat offender would
otherwise face a long sentence.
Sustained by the promise of getting out in a year with good behavior,
Al goes to see his estranged father Jefe (Armando Duran) to beg him
to look after Sylvie while he's away in jail. When al comes upon
him, Jefe is breaking the ground with a hoe like a demoralized peasant,
but in fact he was a bank teller in Mexico before he and his wife
moved to El Paso with the standard-issue immigrants' dream of making
a better life for their son.
Al blames Jefe for his mother's early death, Jefe blames Al for
turning into a wannabe-Anglo loser - and neither has the faintest
suspicion when Jefe grudgingly agrees to take Sylvie into his house
that Jefe and Sylvie are going to fall in love.
That's the pivotal irony of the play - that blonde Sylvie couldn't
care less about the WASP world and is drawn to Mexico as Al is to
The action commences with Al getting out of jail, hooking up with
Duane, acquiring a knife, and going to look for Jefe and Sylvie,
who've fled on hearing of his release.
As they search nocturnal El Paso in Duane's Plymoujth Fury, along
the way Al and Duane pick up China (Vilma Silva), a foul-mouthed
Chicana who claims to have seen the runaway lovers, and who cruelly
mocks Al's passion for an "Anglo-sexy" while exulting in
her own dark skin and black hair "thick as a horse's main."
Inevitably the three catch up with Jefe and Sylvie - and that's
as much of the story as it's fair to reveal. Suffice it to say that,
as skillfully staged by Timothy Bond, "El Paso Blue" generates
tension, heat - and not a few laughs.
It should be noted that much of the action is accompanied by Michael
Herman's able blues guitar and punctuated by Sylvie's singing. Though
the music is entertaining, it's also an irritant, and leaves one
wishing Solis had had more confidence in his skills as a dramatist
and not felt compelled like a screenwriter to rely on music to excite
emotion. On the stage, that somehow feels like cheating. The dialogue
likewise shows in its excessive reliance on expletives the noxious
influence of Hollywood.
Those reservations apart, Solis has a poet's ear for launguage
and an admirable ability to write English as it's spoken in the street.
When Al compares Sylvie's skin to the new felt cover on a pool table,
Solis very much earns the audience's appreciative laughter.
As Al, Rivera is convincingly driven, if disposed to shout a little
Porter, as Duane, pulls off something of a tour de force in illustrating
what it's like to have a metal plate in your head that picks up signals
from fighter planes.
An old man in love with a young woman runs the risk of being ridiculous,
but Duran's dignified performance steers Jefe successfully around
Halaska has the toughest job because hers is the most cliché role.
She succeeds in charging her self-destructive sexpot with real life,
though, and - in a nice ironic touch - is especially moving singing
in Spanish. It's silva, however, who as the quick-tongued China,
steals the show. When she throws off her bag-lady coat and reveals
the Latina firebrand underneath, look out.
Part tragedy, part B movie, part musical comedy, "El Paso
Blue" is no more confused about its identity than the country
as a whole.
'El Paso Blue' Steams
by Robert H. Miller
The Ashland Daily
At first I thought Oregon Shakespeare Festival's "El Paso "Blue," Octavio
Solis' play, now in repertory at the Black Swan, with guitar music
composed and played by Michael "Hawkeye" Herman, was going
to be another dregsy drama. After all, it is a raw and crude and
murky tale. Its characters are hapless and hopeless, and they converse
in a mix of gutter English and Spanish (happily the program includes
a glossary of selected terms).
Yet, the opening, a sort of prologue, excites the curiosity, introducing
the five characters: Sylvie, Al (Alejandro), Jefe, Duane, and China.
Who are they? What are they doing? How are their lives intertwined?
Perhaps the bluesy song that Sylvia sings, "Love on the Run," gives
us a clue, foreshadowing the conflict. And after 90 minutes, with
no let-up for intermission, we learn the bitter resolution.
As for the story, Al and Duane are buddies, and when Al has to
go to prison for a burglary bungled by Duane, to whom he feels he
owes his life, he asks his father, Jefe, to look after and care for
his wife, Sylvie, while he does his time. Jefe, a widower, is reluctant
until Al mentions that Sylvie is a singer, only later to commit incest
with her. A year goes by, Al is released, promptly buys himself a
hunting knife, and sets off in Duane's truck to find his father and
wife who have "disappeared."
The buddies prowl around El Paso, and pounce on a woman in the
dark, thinking it is Sylvie. It isn't, but instead is a strange character
named China, a self-styled three-quarter breed, armed with a water
pistol loaded with ammonia. She claims to have seen Sylvie and Jefe
in a bar, and the trio drives there, thence to a mission, before
arriving at Jefe's ranch out in the desert, just as Jefe and Sylvie
are about to flee.
The playwright moves his characters backwards and forwards in time
and place with the help of crossfades, segues, and punctuation of
a jet aircraft engine or guitar motif. Indeed, the guitarist might
almost be considered a narrator.
It is the combination of director Tim Bond's dedication, the clever
stagecraft of the playwright, the passion of the actors, and the
composer's pulsating music - blues, roadhouse, country, and something
obliquely resembling all three - that holds, indeed, rivets us.
If you think this play appears to be a surfeit of gloom and doom,
I assure you there is humor here, particularly in Ray Porter's portrayal
of Duane, making him an off-beat deadbeat with wonderful timing.
Thom Rivera, as Al, shows us that there is no love lost between him
and his father; he remarkably sustains a sharp knife-edge of intensity
throughout, being emotionally strung out. Armando Duran, as Jefe,
is another strength, letting us see both the tender and tough nature
of the man. As for Vilma Silva, she brilliantly brings out the repulsive
nature of China, yet that she's a desirable woman, too. Sylvie is
a challenging role, but Linda Halaska convincingly captures the many
mood swings. There's magic in the moment when she responds to Jefe's "Yo
te amo." Moreover, she does all the singing in the paly, and
particularly affecting is her rendition of "Cancion de mi Madre."
The characters are less than endearing, and the subject matter
hardly uplifting. Still, "El Paso Blue" thrills.
"El Paso Blue," by Octavio solis, directed
by Timothy Bond, Black Swan Theater
Pat Craig, Times Staff Writer
Contra Costa Times
I probably like this play more than I should, because liking it
this much acknowledges a fascination with time spent in the bad part
of town, and a soft spot for people who chase off into the night
to pursue something elusive and scream home the next morning with
a headache and empty pockets.
It is, in short, a play about people who are not like us. It is
about those people who live on dreams instead of cash and sink deeper
and deeper into the morass by making the wrong choice every time.
Yet, they are fascinating, and we envy them their spirit.
Many of the questions Solis deals with here are those of race and
ethnicity, but the show as a whole spins on the more universal themes
of loneliness and desperation.
It is the story of Alejandro (Thom Rivera), who takes hard time
in jail for his pal Duane (Ray Porter), because one time Duane stepped
between Al and a shotgun blast. The result earned Duane a metal plate
in his head made of some sort of rare substance that picks up everything
from talk shows and CB radio chat to police calls and drive-up window
conversation and plays it all through Duane's head.
So Alejandro agrees to take the rap for Duane's botched burglary,
and gets a two-year prison sentence. Al can do the time, but he needs
somebody to take care of Sylvie (Linda Halaska), his blonde bride
and a runner-up in the Miss Texas Pageant.
He figures the best choice would be Jefe, his dad (Armando Duran),
a man who gave up a white-collar job in Mexico to come to the United
States and wash dishes so Al would have a better life. He resents
it that Al seems to have forsaken his ethnicity for a clearer shot
at the American dream.
Naturally, Jefe and Sylvie become lovers, and we watch their relationship
grow as Al and Duane's desperate search for the young blonde unfolds
in parallel scenes.
Al and Duane are joined in their hunt by China (Vilma Silva), a
sort of Raza conscience, who guides the two men through a series
of low places that are already quite familiar to them.
The whole piece plays to the background music of blues and a vague
sort of rackabilly provided by onstage musician Michael "Hawkeye" Herman
and a number of songs sung by Sylvie.
It is a story in which the journey is much more important than
the end result. You can pretty much figure out from the start what
will happen. But knowing the outcome and helplessly watching the
journey presents some impressive theater.
"El Paso Blue" is a wonderfully well-directed and acted
piece. Director Timothy Bond has given the production a modern dance
feel, with some very stylized movements and precise gestures.
And the cast has given the show an excitement and energy that both
demands and rewards attention. Particularly effective are the two
women, Halaska and Silva, whose performances both tear our heart
out for very different reasons. Porter is delightful as the over-the-top,
bumbling Duane. But it is Rivera and Duran who are the most memorable.
They play the most "real" characters in the play, and it
is from them that the incredible personal tragedy grows.
"El Paso Blue" is a touching play, offered up with rousingly
'El Paso Blue' is a tour de force
small-stage production is best of season so far
The Medford Mail Tribune
Ashland - Octavio Solis' play "El Paso Blue" stands
out in the initial round of four productions at the Oregon Shakespeare
It opened as the fourth on Sunday, Feb. 28. It's the only one,
so far, in the Festival's Black Swan, a three-quarter arena theater
that brings the audience and players near each other, sometimes within
The play itself goes deeper.
The script, production and playing space achieve a unity of effect
that eludes the other three productions to one degree or another.
All elements work toward that unity. The play is performed, without
intermission, by an ensemble cast of five festival actors and an
onstage musician, Michael "Hawkeye" Herman, who composed
the music and plays it under much of the dialogue.
The setting is El paso, Texas, in "the present," although
scenes shift in place and time into a surrealistic "now," where
chronology isn't measured by the numbers on a clock.
The play lasts about 100 minutes, but the action involves the audience
so intensely that time is suspended.
We meet Al, also called Alejandro (Thom Rivera); his father, Jefe,
also called Marcelo, (Armando Duran); Sylvie (Linda Halaska); Duane
(Ray Porter), and China (Vilma Silva).
Al, Hispanic, is married to Sylvie, a blond, blue-eyed Anglo, a
former runner-up for the title of Miss Texas. He recalls walking
with her on his arm and being "the envy of them honky bums in
Duane is Al's beer buddy and friend. When Duane commits a nighttime
burglary and leaves Al's jacket at the scene, he persuades Al to
take the rap, calling in a debt in wich Duane stepped into the path
of a gunshot intended for Al. With Duane's record he'd be put away
in the state pen.
Al gets two years, with possible time off for good behavior. when
he visits an unsympathetic father, before going to jail, Jefe tells
him, "then behave yourself." Al tells his father that Sylvie
needs a place to stay while Al is in jail. After first refusing,
Jefe agrees to take her in.
Solis meshes personal and cultural conflicts as the characters
interact with a supra-realism. Their interactions are human drama,
yet beyond. The playwright introduces the Oedipus theme as part of
this blues melody, but keeps it in tempo and on key.
The people are foremost. The playwright, actors and the director,
Timothy Bond, bring them to life.
Duane is the kind of good ol' boy you might see drinking Lone Star
in El Paso, or Olympia in Medford. His difference is that, with a
metal plate in his head, he just happens to hear radio signals: police
and emergency calls, CB, radio talk shows and messages from jet pilots
flying out of the White Sands air base.
People have actually experienced degrees of the phenomenon. In
this play it focuses into human terms the symbolism of technology
invading our lives.
Sylvie visually introduces the cultural conflict, on her entrance,
carrying roses, wearing a gown, as she competes for the Miss Texas
crown. She undergoes a sudden transformation. Halaska sings blues
to Herman's growling guitar.
According to a program note, "Only Sylvie sings the songs
in the play," and "At no time do any of the characters
pretend they are driving a car." These directions are the playwright's,
from the script.
Duran delivers solid a role as the father, underplaying when his
mood is aloof and projecting many emotions through other character
Rivera orchestrates Alejandro's character from tender romanticism
to unbridled anger. With Duane and, later, China, he undertakaes
a quest to find his lost Sylvie and the love they originally knew.
In that quest Duane and Al meet China, streetwise woman of Latin
and African ancestry, who tells Al that Sylvie is not for him. Like
Sylvie, she unmasks another person, and passon. Silva brings China
"El Paso Blue" is bilingual, in English and Spanish,
often mixing both launguages in the same sentence. The program provides
a glossary of Spanish terms for those who need it. Other written
materials relating to the play are also bilingual. Some of the dialogue,
in both languages, is explicitly adult. The play is not suggested
It blends drama, suspense, humor, social commentary and symbolism
without overburdening any aspect. Script, acting, directing, design
and technical values make this a memorable theatrical event.
Solis attended the opening performance Sunday afternoon. No one
called out "Author!" - but we should have.
"El Paso Blue"
Life on the border
by Paul Denison
ASHLAND - At 90 minutes, Octavio Solis' "El Paso Blue" is
by the far the shortest of the four plays that opened last weekend
at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It's also the smallest, playing
in the intimate Black Swan Theatre with a cast of five actors and
But it's no less intense, absorbing and fascinationg than "Othello" and "The
Good Person of Szechuan." In some ways, it's even more so.
At a press conference on opening weekend, director Timothy Bond
described "El Paso Blue" as something of a modern Greek
tragedy with a sense of fate and "Oedipal underpinnings" that
the playwright may not have intended.
Those underpinnings are easy enough to spot in Solis' story about
a father and son fighting to the death over a woman who's a psychological
substitute for their dead wife and mother.
Jefe (Armando Duran) and his son Alejandro (Thom Rivera) are already
estranged when "Al," headed for a year or two in prison,
asks his father to look afer his wife, a blue-eyed blond named Sylvie
(Linda Halaska). Jefe and Sylvie fall in love and run away the day
before Alejandro gets out of jail.
Aided by his Anglo buddy Duane (Ray Porter), driven by regret and
rage and armed with a hunting knife, Al sets out to track them down.
Along the way, Al and Duane hook up with China (Vilma Silva), a hip-hop
Hispanic who defends herself with slang and a water blaster filled
with ammonia water.
This is a tragedy in the making, to be sure, and it even has a
one-woman chorus. Accompanied by guitarist Michael "Hawkeye" Herman,
Halaska belts out blues-rock-country songs and, at a turning point
in the play, sings a slow Mexican ballad during a flashback/flash-forward
dumb show that beautifully illuminates why both father and son are
drawn to her.
Tragedy this may be, but it ain't just Greek, amigo. It's Latino,
because the real conflict here is about being bilingual and bicultural,
about trying to figure out who you are and where you belong in a
border culture. English and Spanish merge into Spanglish, richer
and more expressive than either language by itself.
Jefe holds on to his sense of race as fiercely as Al rejects it
and clings to his Anglo wife, and Sylvie in turn falls for Jefe because
she feels Mexico when she's in his arms. She also recovers her sobriety,
her dead father and her freedom, but at great cost to both father
and son. And at the anguished wife-and-moher heart of the father-son
battle lies issues of racial pride and personal despair.
Meanwhile, China embraces and frankly expresses racial pride in
a way that is wasted on Al but absolutely floors Duane, who many
get the message without using the telecommunicative metal plate in
"El Paso Blue" is like Lorca's "Blood Wedding" -
on speed, with humor. It's very intense but also rich with earthy
humor and deep insights tightly wrapped in poetry and slang. The
tragedy is not singular but collective; all the characters are highly
It takes very capable, versatile actors to carry this out at such
a frenetic pitch, and this production certainly has them. The playwright
was in the audience at the opening show, and his broad smile at the
end was an emphatic stamp of approval.
Oregon's Shakespeare Festival is aiming big at Ashland
Seattle Times theater critic
Another stretch for OSF, this recent work by Chicano author Octavio
Solis whips through the tiny Black Swan Theatre with the dusty force
of a desert cyclone. With a nod to the ancient Greeks, Solis plumbs
the fateful obsessions of a quintet of white and Latino border-dwellers.
Moving forward and flashing back, we see just how Alejandro (Thom
Rivera) takes the fall for an old pal, Duane (Ray Porter), and during
a two-year jail stint loses his blowsy, former-beauty-queen wife,
Sylvie (Linda Halaska) to his estranged father (Armando Duran). Betrayal,
revenge and sacrificial blinding all swirl in this murky stew. Staged
at a boiling point by OSF's Timothy Bond, it's hot-peppered with
sexual intensity, intimations of violence and bilingual profanity.
While the script's myth-charged riffs can get terribly self-conscious,
Solis has a great steam valve in Porter's Duane, a good ol' boy with
a metal plate in his head and a fickle streak of common sense. Duane's
hilarious one-man Greek chorus balances out the rhetorical excesses
of Chicana avenging angel China (Vilma Silva) and Rivera's two-note
But the most surprising effect of the piece is the improbably tender
case it makes for the passionate liasion between Halaska's Sylvie
(a dead-ringer for Meg Ryan, in her trashier roles) and Duran's much-older,
If "El Paso Blue" raises a few muddled questions about
the nature of Anglo-Latino couplings and ethnic identity, its main
force is theatrical, not didactic. It can wrench you into the hearts
of unsavory desert rats, whose passions cross the border into poetry.
Thousands of Bay Area Fans will flock to Oregon's festival,
which opens with four energized shows
Winn, Chronicle Staff Critic
San Francisco Chronicle
``El Paso Blue'' holds the festival's smallest space, at the 138-seat
Black Swan. But San Francisco writer Octavio Solis' 1994 play aspires
to be a kind of Spanglish grand opera crossed with a road-buddy farce.
It's a fierce and bumpy 90 minutes.
"Blue" tells the tale of an ex-beauty queen (Linda Halaska) who
leaves her Mexican-American husband Al (Thom Rivera) when he's in
prison and takes up with his father Jefe (Armando Duran). It refracts
the story through a kaleidoscope of time and tone. Some lines fall
with ponderous solemnity. Others, especially those peeled off by
Al's misfit friend Duane (the hilarious Ray Porter), add a beer burp
of down-to- earth humor.
The play, which includes songs that advance the action like arias,
reaches out so far that it never quite anchors the characters. But
director Timothy Bond works in a few charmed, spooky moments. When
the blond beauty queen sings a Mexican love song, rising from the
spot where one of the men has just wrestled her to the ground, she's
a jukebox dream for both father and son. Now there's a recipe for
Ashland in season
By Ron Cowan
Statesman Journal, Salem
Music colors 'Blue'
Octavio Solis' darkly funny and poignantly tragic "El Paso
Blue" takes place in the intimate Black Swan Theater, but the
real setting is a world that seems almost as theatrical.
The dramatic locale is the shifting psychological, emotional world
of the "frontier" between Mexico and the United States,
a place where romance, relationships and the law can all be very
This 90-minute play has been staged with almost dream-like intensity
by director Tim Bond, and it is a very different theatrical breed
as well, drifting from past to present, from dreams to reality, and
doing it with poetry, occasional craziness, frequent intensity and
almost often with music: Guitarist/singer Michael "Hawkeye" Herman
is on stage at all times as a kind of musical narrator.
The story is a typical noirish mix of road movie, love triangle,
given added depth and pungency by the setting mix of Mexican and
North American races and ideas.
Thom Rivera is the rather intense protagonist, a young man of Mexican
parents raised in the United States. He finds his real distinction
is being married to and loved by a blond American, Linda Halaska,
who had a fling at being a beauty queen before she became an alcoholic.
Rivera's American buddy, played by Ray Porter, unpredictably channels
radio communications through a metal plate in his head. When he burglarizes
a beauty shop - in the dark he comes away with hair rollers and dryers
- he leaves behind Rivera's leather jacket, and Rivera agrees to
take the blame and do the time.
But when Rivera leaves Halaska with his father, a widower played
by Armando Duran, the two become lovers.
Paso Blue" has a feel of a sad but powerrful romantic ballad
given physical life. The versatile cast is exceptional, particularly
Porter as the sometimes manic good ole boy and Rivera, who seems
to radiate emotional pain.
'El Paso Blue' shows festival's push for diversity goes
by Barry Johnson
The Oregonian, Living
Octavio solis' well-acted play explores the borderland
between Mexico and the United States and between comedy and tragedy.
ASHLAND - Not everything at ths year's Oregon Shakespare Festival
is big, bold and beautiful. In the festival's intimate Black Swan
theater, "El Paso Blue" by Octavio Solis is receiving an
intense, tightly wound production that contrasts provocatively with
the sweep of "Othello," "The Good Person of Szechuan" and "Chicago" on
the big Bowmer Theatre stage.
"El Paso Blue" is also representative of an important,
positive change at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this decade -
the move toward greater diversity. It's immediately obvious onstage:
The number of African American, Latino and Asian American actors
has risen dramatically as the company's directors have embraced nontraditional
casting. That's all to the good. It's almost impossible to imagine
the festival now without the likes of Derrick Lee Weeden, J.P. Phillips
and Vilma Silva in the company.
And with the help of Timothy Bond, one of the festival's associate
artistic directors and former atristic director of Seattle's multicultural
Group Theatre, the company's roster of playwrights has also begun
Solis is a Latino playwright from Texas, whose newest play, "Dreamlandia," is
slated to open at the Dallas Theater Center this fall. "El Paso
Blue" premiered in San Diego's Intersection for the Arts theater
in 1994, and it's played at universities and other small theaters
The production at the festival, directed by Bond, is striking:
obviously polished but still gritty.
The story starts with the relationship between Al (Thom Rivera)
and Sylvie (Linda Halaska). They are married and in love, though
perhaps not happy, when Al has to spend a year in jail, taking the
rap for an inept robbery committed by his best friend, Duane (Ray
Porter). Duane, we learn, has saved Al's life by taking a shotgun
blast in the head that was intended for Al. Duane hasn't emerged
unscathed - a metal plate in his skull now picks up radio, citizens
band, shortwave and other transmissins, a mind-scrambling experience.
Al is feuding with his father (Armando Duran) over the issue of
assimilation. Al is trying to fit into Anglo culture, while his father
clings to his Mexican culture. Still, before heading to prison, Al
leaves Sylvie with his father. Big Mistake. The two quickly find
common ground and fall in love.
When Al gets out, he's very unhappy and determined to revenge himself.
Duane's willing to help. And along the way they meet a strange young
Latina, China (Vilma Silva), who seems to know where Sylvie has been
and who develops an interest in Al.
The play has the inevitability of a Greek tragedy. We sense immediately
that Sylvie and Al's father aren't going to live happily ever after,
and neither is Al.
Michael "Hawkeye" Herman has developed a mostly blues
score to accompany the action, and he sits perched on the back of
a pickup truck on the set, playing background music for the songs
that Sylvie sings. The blues idiom is a little confusing - why blues
instead of rockabilly, Western or traditional Mexican music? But
it does help establish the elemental quality of the action.
As Al, Rivera makes a fine leading man, born to suffer but built
to take it. Duran matches him in the ability to absorb punishment
and finds the dignity in the older man. And Halaska, the love interest
of both men, brings her own sadness to the tale.
Porter, one of the festival's best actors, gets most of the funny
lines and crates a whirlpool of energy whenever he steps onstage.
The scenes he doesn't steal are pilfered by Silva, whose tough-talking
China from the wrong side of the tracks launches into Solis' most
inspired poetry every time she opens her mouth. Silva has usually
played traditional heroines at the festival, like Juliet or the bride
in "Blood Wedding," but here she bristles with danger and
El Paso Blue
by Robert Hurwitt
San Francisco Examiner
Production problems of a different sort hamper Solis' "El
Paso Blue" as well, though not to such extreme effect.
Casting seems to be part of the problem; rhythm, may be another.
OSF associate artistic director Timothy Bond's three-quarter round
staging in the intimate Black Swan has something of the same deceptively
easy lope that Solis' own original direction established at Intersection
for the Arts in '94. But it lacks something of the earlier version's
Paso" is a reverse-Oedipal struggle and an ethnic identity drama
wrapped in a chase scene that takes up the whole 95-minute play.
Alejandro (Thom Rivera), just out of prison, is riding after the
man who stole his gringa wife, Texas beauty queen and blues singer
Sylvie (Linda Halaska). That man is his father (a deeply wounded,
terse Armando Durán). Along for the ride are Al's faithful
gringo sidekick, Duane (Ray Porter brilliantly playing the surreal
comedy of receiving radio signals through the metal plate in his
head), and a mysterious, belligerent streetwise Chicana (an engagingly
fiercely focused Vilma Silva).
At its best, it's a compelling and unsettling ride, fueled by the
intense lyricism of Solis' concentrated, poetic "Spanglish." But
it lacks something of the force of the Intersection production, both
in Rivera's single-minded but unthreatening performance and in its
musical component. As in the original, composer Michael "Hawkeye" Herman
is on hand to contribute expert country-blues guitar accompaniment.
But Halaska, though affecting in her romantic entanglements, is only
sporadically effective as a vocalist, which leaves "El Paso" somewhat
bereft of its "Blues."