“American Mariachi” – Arizona Theatre Company

Theater Review – April 20, 2019


Arizona Theatre Company, Center Stage, Herberger Theater Center
Phoenix, AZ

“American Mariachi” introduces a new comedy with music to audiences in one of the first efforts by Arizona Theatre Company to feature a Hispanic themed play by Jose Cruz Gonzalez that looks at a family guided and influenced by mariachi music and turns it into a touching piece about the family’s efforts to establish a women’s mariachi band, something in the Spanish culture that is normally exclusively male.  The play is an entertaining piece that creates interest in and makes for fascinating insight into the Hispanic culture.

The story is simple but moving.  Mother Amalia Morales has been obsessed by mariachi music but as she ages her mind fails except when rekindled memories by her husband, Federico, and his pursuit of their marriage helps her almost come alive again.  Their daughter Lucha, discovers how the promise of a rekindled band helps her mother spark back to life.  Lucha’s goal is to establish an all girl mariachi band, a non-traditional exercise in the usually all male mariachi band world.  With a group of women from their community Lucha creates a band that conquers rehearsal struggles to become a viable musical ensemble.  The band’s creation helps cure several family problems making the play a vibrant look into this family’s complex dynamic.

Christopher Acebo’s staging keeps the play light and moves it along while emphasizing the places where the family’s differences make the band’s creation troubled.  An interesting set allows the play to float between many locales effortlessly as expressive lighting guides audiences to key moments and to how the band’s creation will ultimately enhance this family’s stability.

The cast is extraordinary from an exemplary mariachi band to an excellent cast including Diana Burbano’s touching portrait of mother Amalia, Christen Celaya’s dogmatic but principled Lucha, and especially Danny Bolero’s changing father Federico who starts as a staunchly biased man but who ultimately understands the need to change as conditions evolve in his family.

“American Mariachi” provides an insightful view into an evolving and changing Hispanic family and how times change necessitating new thinking on established cultural issues.  “American Mariachi” ended its run Sunday, April 21.  The audience at the performance I attended gave the play an enthusiastic and well deserved standing ovation.

Grade: A-