Thursday, June 28, 2012


Luis Alfaro's BRUJA which is having it's world premiere in San Francisco at the Magic Theatre is pretty phenomenal. Imagine Euripides's classic tale of a woman scorned, Medea, set in San Francisco's Mission District among the undocumented immigrant community juxtaposed with the upwardly mobile Creon, Aegeus and Jason. The latter Medea's man, or so she thinks. With luscious language and even more luscious landscapes --those within Medea and without, the bruja or witch--wicked or sweet one can't say until she is scorned.

The set which opens on the tiled courtyard with fountain where Medea treats her patient, Aegeeus who wants a son, but first needs to ask his wife in Mexico to let him go. She didn't want to leave her home, so he left her and marries anew. The healer or curanderola dons a red bandana, and dips leaves in medicine and hits his torso and back with it; she then take rum in her mouth and sprays him with it.

Vieja, her dunya or grounding who tries with varying success to temper the young woman whose passions run hot and deep for her man Jason. She loves him too much, much more than perhaps he deserves or even comprehends until it is too late.

The synergy between Sean San Jose's "Jason" and Sabina Zuniga Varela's "Medea" is kinetic, especially when Jason asks his lover and mother of their twin boys to work magic on him and she says he is too close, so she shows him her heart instead--she takes her heart from her body into her hands and gives it to him. . . . Yes, it is one of those theatrical cinematic moments this work creates and then reinvents again and again with exquisite lighting and sound design.

Medea and Vieja's apothecary is center stage and has on it besides the usual candles, Florida water, flowers --a machete and large leaves like wings which Medea dons to call the spirits both good and evil--

The girl darkens the sky when she mourns and all near tremble.

Alfaro's Bruja or Medea is a tale of "old country" not quite meeting the new. It is the mishap or missed step when assimilation skips a key generation (smile). It is the story of blind ambition, Jason's and one woman's simple yet powerful love. Medea has all she wants in Jason, whereas, Jason is enamored by wealth and wants what his boss, Creon (Carlos Aguirre) has to offer him.

Both Medea and Jason hold secrets, and Medea who has nothing but her love for Jason is betrayed by that love. Neither Creon nor Jason respect her love; it has no value on the open market in this new land. It's not sanctified; it isn't even legal--she has no license. She is not married by law, so no one, not even Jason values the relationship which he betrays in the worse way. I am shocked.

Of course, Medea is (smile).

It isn't good to make a powerful woman angry. I don't know what Jason was thinking.

Creon married a gringo, who dies and leaves him a daughter, Glauce, whom he loves and whom he wants to leave the business too. His daughter, a shallow rich girl, loves clothes--Medea makes her a dress and has Vieja, take it to her.

The dress shimmers and glows; however it is woven from serpent skin which comes alive. Alvaro's Bruja --80 minutes without intermission blends Greek and Mayan with Santeria spiked Curanderola medicine to make a tale that is unbelievably real.

What will a woman do when scorned? I am reminded of Lady MacBeth who kills for her husband then can't rid herself of the ghosts.

Where does one put the bloody memories? They don't wash out.

When Jason returns home from Creon's mansion to Medea and calls for his sons and then looks for them and find Wilma Bonet's "Vieja" digging holes in the garden . . . where else can Medea go but up and away?

The bird imagery which permeates the tale brings the work to a surprising conclusion as Jason sits bewildered in the courtyard--his big dreams shattered.

Reminds me of the saying, what good is it to gain the world if one loses one's soul? Bruja has been extended through Sunday, July 1, 2012. There are nightly performances Friday and Sunday, with a Sunday matinee. Visit

Listen to my interview with Sabina "Medea" on Wanda's Picks Radio:


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