It strikes where it doth love

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May 12, 2014

Cruel Tears/Lagrimas Crueles

Blue Bridge Theatre at The Roxy

Written by Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, Directed by Brian Richmond

Show held over until May 18, 2014

Photograph by lijc Albanese

Review by Curran Dobbs 

Blue Bridge’s ambitious adaptation of Cruel Tears/Lagrimas Crueles takes the 1975 musical upon which it was based, itself a modernized loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello (think what West Side Story did to Romeo & Juliet) and places it on the Texan/Mexican border. Set in 1975, Juan (played by Indio Saravanja), a native Mexican trucker, falls in love with his boss’s daughter, Kathy (Alexandra Wever). As is natural for Shakespearean tragedies, death ensues, thanks to the manipulations of fellow truck driver Jack (Jacob Richmond), presumably out of bitterness from feeling underappreciated and his jealousy for being passed over for the promotion Juan received in his stead.

The atmosphere of this Tex/Mex musical is set with good use of a smoke machine (consider this a warning to those with respiratory issues) and lighting. The show opens with occasional conflict before developing a much darker tone in the second half. Cruel Tears paints a picture of 1970’s Texas, where overworked and underpaid characters attempt to scrape a living in a society where income and race prey on the minds of lower class blue-collar workers.

There were admittedly parts of the play where the pacing seemed rushed, such as Juan’s descent into jealousy and disillusionment in the second half, or the hastily resolved conflict in the first half between the lovers and Kathy’s disapproving father. This might have been a side effect of developing Othello to the musical medium. Fortunately, it does not detract much from the enjoyment of the play.

The Tejano style music was, for the most part, kept a comfortable low to moderate tempo that was easy to hear and understand. The Spanish lyrics were translated through the use of subtitles displayed on a screen above the stage— owing both to the talent of the performers and the acoustics of the venue. The band took their place on the side of the stage and acted as a modernized Greek chorus, occasionally interacting with the other characters and effectively expositing the relevant plot points to the audience. The music and dialogue made seamless transitions between English and Spanish.

The choreography was smooth, and while the trained dancers (David Ferguson and Jung Ah Chung) did not perform much, when they did, they did so impressively. The dancers also added a tongue in cheek element to the play, doubling as living props for certain objects that required an element of motion (such as truck windshield wipers or a jukebox).

Overall, Cruel Tears is a unique and lively show worth catching while it is still showing.

Curran Dobbs is a local reviewer and comedian.  


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