Play and Real Life Review: Tortilla Curtain, San Diego Repertory TheatreSHOWS/FESTIVALS/HOLIDAYS, STAFF, USA MAINLAND — By Catherine Nichols on April 3, 2012 at 01:03
By staff writer Cathie Nichols. Photos Copyright © Cathie Nichols.
AS A PERSON who prides herself on being on time, I arrived at Horton Plaza with plenty of time to spare. I parked on one of the upper levels and sat tweeting in my car for a bit. After all, I had plenty of time to make it to the San Diego Repertory Theatre for the 1:45 p.m. cut-off for press at the matinee showing of Tortilla Curtain.
(I love writing “press” because I’m just an occasional blog writer posing as press.)
Prior to heading to downtown San Diego, I checked out the San Diego Repertory Theatre website because the last time I shopped at Horton Plaza was about twenty or more years ago. But even this did not prepare me for its size.Let me tell you, Horton Plaza is HUGE. This downtown mall has taken advantage of its prime real estate and put in so many stores that one would not need to venture elsewhere. From Abercrombie to Zales, Horton Plaza is your one-stop shopping experience. Any trip to San Diego should include a stop at Horton Plaza.
In all my mall-walking, diversionary window shopping and color-coded “You Are Here” directory confusion, I stumbled upon the concierge and asked him directions to the San Diego Theatre. If I’d been playing that game of hot and cold, I would have been in the “getting warmer” arena.
All I had to do was walk down a flight of stairs and then descend into the basement of Horton Plaza. The San Diego Repertory Theatre is underground. Fortunately, I was so intent on being on time that my claustrophobia didn’t have time to stop me in my tracks. I grabbed my ticket and my “press packet” (giggle) at 1:43 p.m.
The theater is intimate and every seat appears to have a good view of the stage. At the matinee performance of Tortilla Curtain, there were few open seats. Many people had left their homes on a cold, blustery afternoon to see the play.
Tortilla Curtain opened with a bang, and I was immediately drawn in. Delaney, a professional writer and environmentalist who has done well for himself, is traveling up a road in the Topanga Canyon area of Los Angeles, on his way to the top where his home is in a planned community. Suddenly, a man darts out in front of Delaney’s car, and he hits him, and sends him flying over the edge into the canyon.
He gets out of his car and searches for the injured person and soon discovers he has hit a Spanish-speaking man who refuses treatment. Delaney tumbles to the fact that the man is refusing treatment because he’s without documents and will be deported if he goes to the hospital, so he offers him $20 for his trouble.
With only seven actors, the play proceeds seamlessly. It is laugh-out-loud funny; the writing is clever and thought-provoking. Some of us may laugh with discomfort because we might see a part of Delaney in ourselves as we watch him transform from a love-everybody-liberal to a man-on-a-mission seeking justice for perceived wrongdoings by the new transplants, characters América and Cándido.
As the story unfolds the audience gets to see how, even though we think we know what happened, each person’s recounting of events is from his or her perspective. Rich with symbolism, this play is about the American dream and what the dream means to different people—the people who are born in America and those who pay large sums of cash to Coyotes to be here. It also explores what people will do once they feel as if their American dream is in jeopardy.
So much of the story is tragic but the characters find a way to make us laugh anyway. They find the silver lining through wildfires, flash floods, and violence. I left the play and really thought about how thankful I am to be here in California, and how much I already have. My family lives a comfortable existence; we do not have to worry about how we will find our next meal.
Yesterday, I was reminded again of Tortilla Curtain while I was unpacking my grocery cart and putting the bags into my car. Although a week has passed since I saw the play, I still think of it because I’m surrounded by similarities between my life and the play.
A slightly disheveled man approached me who reminded me of Cándido because he had such an open and friendly face. He said, “Hablo Español?” I replied no, so he spoke to me in English. He told me he had not eaten in four days, and that he couldn’t afford even a burrito.
With this declaration, he pointed at Roberto’s, a taco shop where the burritos might cost $5. He asked me if I had any work for him. I said no as I searched in my purse for my wallet to give him some money, but he stopped me and said, “No, no. No money. If you have any work for me, I am at the Home Depot. Come and get me there.”
I left him in the grocery store parking lot, and kicked myself mentally after I returned home and suddenly saw an incredible number of projects I could have hired him for.
One thing’s for sure: I will never forget him. Like Cándido, this man respected himself and wanted only to work. Who knows how many of his family members are counting on him to come through with food? Who knows when he will eat again?
Tortilla Curtain brings awareness to those who choose to see the message behind this thoroughly entertaining play.
Cathie Nichols (aka @Bloggoneit) is an author-in-training and is in the process of writing a book. Sometimes overwhelmed with three kids, a husband, a dog, a cat, and an overactive imagination, she finds her sanity by escaping life through a super-sappy movie or tweeting about twending topics.