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"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 us?

No doubt. But then think of the loss in subject matter to our novelists and playwrights.

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 burglary.

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 U.S.

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 too much.

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 that pitfall.

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 Tidings

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
By 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 contemporary style.

'El Paso Blue' is a tour de force
OSF's small-stage production is best of season so far
by Al Reiss
The Medford Mail Tribune

Ashland - Octavio Solis' play "El Paso Blue" stands out in the initial round of four productions at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

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 arms' length.

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 their 501's."

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 facets.

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 to larger-than-life.

"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 for children.

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 of violence
by Paul Denison
Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon

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 a musician.

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 his head.

"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 sympathetic.

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
by Misha Berson
Seattle Times theater critic
'El Paso Blue'

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 Al.

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, leather-souled character.

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
by Steven 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 the blues.

Ashland in season
By Ron Cowan
Statesman Journal, Salem OR
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 tricky.

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.

"El 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 across-the-boards
by Barry Johnson
The Oregonian, Living Section
Portland, OR

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 to broaden.

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 since then.

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 unpredictability.

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 underlying urgency."El 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."

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