Sì, se puede! whispered Cesar Chavez. Somewhere along the way, that whisper became a shout. But when? And how? Watch “The Sweetheart Deal” at the Latino Theatre Center to find out.
Mari and Will, a “bougie” couple from San Jose, CA, are the protagonists of Diane Rodriguez’s new play “The Sweetheart Deal”.
Though the play is a work of fiction in the sense that the characters are fictional, the historical backdrop is not. The play begins in 1970 as the couple arrives in Delano. They have volunteered to write for El Malcriado, an underground journal established by Cezar Chavez and dedicated to the UFW (United Farm Workers).
In the beginning, Mari appears particularly ill-equipped to handle this sudden change of lifestyle. She is rooted in the familiar, i.e. the “comforts of modern life” of 1960s -1970s middle-class suburbia. But Mari matures over the course of the play; her husband, Will, deteriorates. Both are unprepared for the level of violence that they find at the center of Delano.
Many plot twists could be seen from miles away. Will leaves Mari to go out for “just one beer since he has to get up early”; in another scene, Will makes the unconvincing claim that he has fully recovered from an injury. If the play strives for realism, this predictability either should have been toned down, or it should have been more exaggerated, more fatalistic, like a Greek tragedy. Not both. More could have been done to link the Chavez protests to the anti-Trump protests so that the entire audience would feel the pressing weight of both.
The central question of the play is: “…what sacrifices must [these characters] make to be the changes they want to see?” The question is broad and we may not come up with a definitive answer by the end. If nothing else, Diane Rodriguez hopes that you will really listen to Mari’s final speech—a passionate monolog that signals her complete transformation into an inspirational civil right’s leader.
Why this speech? As someone sitting at the front of the theatre, staring directly at Mari as she spoke to the audience, I can tell you why. The theme is universal and important: we all have to care about our country; that relationship requires constant nurturing. One of the central messages of the play is that the present is not so different from the past, and, in fact, the two are inextricably linked in many ways.
Why is this important? To forget the past is to forget that these fights have been fought before and that many of them were successful. The U.S. fights wars in many foreign lands, but these fights are occurring right here in our own country, right now, right in front of our eyes.
In association with El Teatro Campesino, ‘The Sweetheart Deal”, is currently premiering at The Latino Theater Company at The Los Angeles Theatre Center.
Address: 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013
Price: $22- $52
Reservations/information: call (866) 811-4111 or go to http://thelatc.org
Runs: May 4 through June 4