"It was violent, it was shocking, it was overflowing with this amazing and beautiful Spanglish language—from beginning to end it was completely, totally irresistible!"
Leslie McCauley, department chair of the Santa Rosa Junior College theater arts program, is describing the first time she read the script for Luis Alfaro's Electricidad, which was published in its entirety in the pages of American Theater magazine last year. The play, set in the barrio of Los Angeles, is based on the Greek myth of Electra, in which two abandoned siblings, Electra and her brother Orestes, conspire to kill their royal mother and her lover in revenge for the murder of their father. In Alfaro's version, Electra (Angela Favreau, above) is an angry young chola, the language is a lyrical mix of Spanish and English, and, yes, the big, bad mama gets what's coming to her.
It's a bold start to the theater arts season at SRJC, where attention-grabbing kick-offs have become something of a tradition. Last year, the season commenced with Stephen Adly Guirgis' controversial The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. The rest of this season's plays bear a similar knack for aggressively spreading modern-day attitudes across classical or historical settings. Following Electricidad is Elton John and Tim Rice's rock 'n' roll adaptation of Verdi's epic love-and-death opera Aida. On Broadway, the John-Rice version, produced by the Walt Disney folks, dazzled audiences and offended parents, who assumed the Disney brand meant a lack of sex, political intrigue, murder and suicide pacts. "It's so big," McCauley laughs, "possibly the most ambitious musical we've ever attempted, but if you don't keep pushing yourself, you grow stale."
In January, the season continues with another relatively new and potentially challenging play, Jim Leonard's Anatomy of Gray, in which a small, God-fearing village is thrown into a panic of fear and suspicion when a mysterious plague descends that seems to be killing only the most righteous, Christ-loving citizens. In March, Wendy Wisely directs Dale Wasserman's popular tragicomic version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and the season concludes with Jon Jory's new adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
"It's a brilliant adaptation," says McCauley of Pride, "set very simply, and told through a series of scenes that take place within the context of an 19th century dance party. It is consistent with a season that presents wonderful, important old stories in new, original ways."
Electricidad runs Oct. 5&–6 and 10&–14 at the Burbank Auditorium, SRJC campus, 1501 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa. Wednesday&–Saturday at 8pm; matinee, Oct. 13&–14 at 2pm. $5&–$15. 707.527.4343.
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