“La Ruta” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – December 4, 2022


Stray Cat Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts Studio Theatre
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

We all know, though some deny, that women are not always well or equally treated.  Playwright Isaac Gomez’s powerful “La Ruta,” receiving its Arizona premiere in a robust Stray Cat Theatre production, has chosen the abused and maligned Hispanic women who live in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico but work in U.S. factories as its focus.

The women slave for 12 hours, six days a week in a non-descript factory turning out products where speed is the only consideration.  These workers ride in buses from their homes to the factory where supervisors care nothing about them.  Women disappear never to show up again and they receive substandard wages.  It is a disgraceful way to treat anybody.

The play deals with what these women believe in private but what they cannot express publicly because they would be fired.  Gomez crafts these women as strong willed, intelligent, and wise but they have been conditioned to be silent except among themselves.  The play is difficult to watch because it so graphically deals with these workers terrible treatment by the harsh American economy.  While not a musical, “La Ruta” is a play with music where the songs intensify dramatic plot moments.

The action plays out in the rundown conditions where these people work and live.  The six opinionated but realistic women understand their situations but some still believe in the American dream.

As staged by Chris R. Chavez, the play runs an intense 90 minutes without intermission and Chavez keeps the action taunt, tight, and intense but slow and deliberate as the play demands.  The bleak set captures the deplorable conditions but it is the magnificent acting that makes this production so telling.  Although the roles vary in complexity, each of the ensemble – Dolores E. Mendoza as Yolanda, Estrella Paloma Parra’s Marisela, Amanda Lopez-Castillo as Ivonne, the Brenda of Maria Cruz, Alexandra “Sandy” Leon as Zaide, and Tiffany Valenzuela’s Desamaya – are stellar and make you care about each character.

One small complaint.  The Tempe Center for the Arts Studio Theatre has quirky acoustics and sometimes the performers allow words to get lost.  Missing any of “La Ruta’s” dialogue risks not understanding every nuance of the piece.

“La Ruta” vividly portrays the way many women are treated both in our society as well as throughout the world.  The winning production continues through December 17. Please be advised that the entire Tempe Center for the Arts complex including the Studio Theatre were frigidly unpleasant. Dress warmly. To order tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre/Tempe Center for the Arts box office at 480-350-2822 or order tickets online at http://straycattheatre.org.

Grade: A