Plenty of Empathy in OnStage’s Wonderful ‘Mugre’

Marcel Ferrin and Paul Araujo. (Photos courtesy of Anibal Alcaraz).

Marcel Ferrin and Paul Araujo (Photos courtesy of Anibal Alcaraz).

Theatre has the power to take seemingly ordinary stories and make them riveting and impactful. A current staging that exemplifies this is OnStage Playhouse’s World Premiere production of Mugre, which is a play about a short period of time in the lives of Mexican employees at a South San Diego car wash, Los Mojados.

The experienced, Pancho (Paul Araujo) spends most of his time joking around and talking to fellow friends, the young jokester, Pato (Marcel Ferrin), and the cynical and world-weary Jerry (John Carroll). One day, an immigrant living in Mexico City, Isabella (Adrianna Cuba), moves to America for mysterious reasons. While Pancho initially feels that Isabella might be unable to handle the work at the carwash, she quickly proves her worth to the male workers.

Writer, Salomón Maya, mixes dialogue that veers from realistic to theatrically stylized. Funny discussions that Pancho shares with others sound as thought they could happen at real car washes, yet there are conversations about a potential storm and moments between Isabella and Esperanza (Vanessa Lopez) that are close to becoming fantastical.

He handles these sequences with masterful skill, especially when the enigmatic Esperanza appears. The significance of Esperanza is slowly revealed throughout the plot.

I left the theatre wanting to learn even more about every character written by the playwright. That being said, credit should go to Maya for writing a new play, with no need to be condensed or edited.

Adriana Cuba.

Adriana Cuba.

The tale moves at an unhurried pace, with scenes focusing on character development. Pancho and his peers are all flawed in realistic ways, and the audience becomes invested in them as they share information about their pasts.

Maya’s empathy is felt through the performances of the ensemble. Araujo, Cuba, Ferrin and Carroll excel at depicting the humanity of the tough laborers. Lopez also brings a commanding presence as Esperanza.

Artistic Director, James P. Darvas, creates an immersive atmosphere with the help of Patrick Mason and Duane McGregor’s set and scenic design, Brad Dubois’ costume design and Estefania Ricalde’s audio and projections. Their contributions ring true to people who have visited car washes in the county. In addition, Kevin “Blax” Burroughs’ lighting adds intensity to a dramatic conclusion that is both shocking and hopeful.

From the touching acting to Maya’s smart script, Mugre tells a seemingly straightforward narrative with no shortage of depth. It is a perfect show for the Chula Vista venue.

[box] Show times are Thursday at 8:00 pm, Friday at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 5:00 pm. [/box]

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OnStage Playhouse
291 Third Avenue Chula Vista California 91910 P. O. Box 120044 Chula Vista CA 91912-0044 Work Phone: (619) 422-7787 Website: ticket ordering Website: OnStage Playhouse website
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