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REVIEW: ‘The Season of La Llarona’ is a faithful rendition of a classic tale

“The Season of La Llorona” opened on Friday, Nov. 11 at the University of New Mexico’s Experimental Theatre and is a loving adaptation of the tale. The adaptation was written by New Mexican author Rudolfo Anaya and directed by theater student Paul Esquibel.

The show opens with a family celebrating Halloween and preparing for Día de Los Muertos, when the abuelo (Manny Lopez Ainza) tells the story of La Llorona. It then flips to La Malinche's (Lasha Kirker) story being told by actors on the opposite side of the stage.

I absolutely love going to see a play. I love getting dressed up, taking my seat, the lights dimming and the excitement brewing and watching a cast fully immerse themselves in the art. This show was particularly special because you could see how much tenderness and appreciation the cast brought to tell this long-loved story.

The lighting, designed by theater student Emma Ziegler, was something that especially caught my eye during the production. The use of high intensity, piercing color and the ability to bring us from one side of the stage to another as the script jumped was done seamlessly. This effect was amplified thanks to the set design by theater student Sarah Kalm.

Throughout the show, there was some room for improvement with pacing and energy. At the start, I wish I could have felt the actors being brought more into Lopez Ainza’s storytelling.

However, I would be embarrassed to neglect to mention the gorgeously gut-wrenching acting done by Lasha Kirker as La Malinche. The pain and heartbreak she so easily showed to the audience completely brought you along on her emotional journey and earned the character mercy and humility. Elsa Sofia Mota, who portrayed the mother in the present day, also wonderfully and simply conveyed the fear and tenderness of the mother's pain that paralleled La Malinche’s with the loss of a child and the guilt that comes with it.

On the note of pain, the blocking and staging of the show easily lent itself to falling into grief as the characters did, along with helping to bring your eyes across the stage to connect with every single character in the story. 

While grief and pain are inevitable aspects of the story and could have possibly been sat in for a second longer, the cast also did a wonderful job giving time and space for the lighthearted, funnier moments in the script. This ability to play with the fun moments created a depiction similar to that done in “The Princess Bride,” where you feel fully encapsulated in the enchanted world in a way similar to a parent reading you a bedtime story as a kid.

The play felt like a perfect ode to the season and one done so kindly and carefully by the cast and crew. With a short run time of just around an hour and a wonderful story to be told that can be understood and loved by all ages, I would highly recommend taking a night to see the splendid talent, and allow yourself to be scared once again by La Llorona.

“The Season of La Llorona” has four shows left in their Nov. 11-20 run, with showings at 7:30 p.m. Thurs-Sat and one remaining matinee on Nov. 20 at 2:00 p.m.

Maddie Pukite is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at managingeditor@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @maddogpukite

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