College of Wooster to Stage World Premier of Latins in La-La Land
Renowned playwright Migdalia Cruz chooses Wooster based on association with Director Jimmy Noriega
WOOSTER, Ohio — The world premier of celebrated playwright Migdalia Cruz’s Latins in La-La Land will be staged at The College of Wooster this weekend (Oct. 29-31). The performances, which begin at 7:30 each evening, will be held in Freedlander Theatre (329 E. University St.).
“Migdalia Cruz is one of most important female playwrights in the U.S. today,” said Jimmy Noriega, assistant professor of theatre and Latin American studies at Wooster as well as the director of the upcoming production. “She has had a long and distinguished career with many awards and honors. We are fortunate to be able to stage a world premier of such a prominent playwright. Very few colleges have that opportunity. It has been challenging, but very exciting.”
Based loosely on the notorious Menedez Brothers, who were convicted of murdering their allegedly abusive parents to lay claim to their estate, and juxtaposed against the Golden Age of cinema in the 1940s, Latins in La-La Land is a dark comedy that mixes the glamour of the silver screen with love, passion, vengeance, and jealousy, according to Noriega. “It is a complicated storyline about fame, fortune, and murder in an elite society where characters, despite their status, are marginalized because of their race, family history, and sexual and gender identities,” he said. “Throughout the production, we witness characters pushed to the edge of sanity and forced into situations from which there is no return.”
The play weaves in and out of two time periods: 1944 and 1989. The former is set at a dinner party in the Hollywood mansion of silent film star Ramon Novarro who is joined by famous guests Lupe Vélez, Dolores del Rio, Marlene Dietrich, and Rita Hayworth. The later takes place in Beverly Hills, where Lorenzo and Efrain purportedly carry out one of the nation’s most infamous and violent double murders.
“In both periods, we see a strong bond between siblings corrupted as the pressures of life begin to wear away at their sense of family and home,” said Noriega. “Throughout the play and its intricate time slips, the audience gets a glimpse into their thoughts and actions as they plan, commit, and react to their fantasies and dreams.”
Cruz is known for the artistic and social complexity of her plays, according to Noriega. “Her works focus on those characters living within the margins of their societies, and contain moments of extreme social violence and bloodshed as a way of exposing the human condition in all its forms,” he said. “Despite this, she often reimagines loss and destruction as instances of beauty, which, in turn, ask us to rethink the ways we relate to those around us. Her plays call for compassion and understanding as she teaches us that violence is the result of broken bonds and the limits placed on our abilities to achieve our dreams.”
The Wooster production of the world premier will feature stage manager Helen Rooker, lighting designer Dale Seeds, costume designer Charlene Gross, scenic and technical designer Mike Schafer, and sound designer Chuck Findley. The cast consists of William Stevenson as Lorenzo Medina, Tristan Lopus as Efrain Medina, Stephanie Castrejon as Margo Lopez, and Emma Farrenkopf as Laly Lopez. Also featured are Phillip Wells as Sid/Rita Hayworth, Nikhil Patnaik as Ramon Navarro, Summit Starr as Marlene Dietrich, Vincent Meredith as Mr. Medina, Lindsay Fannin as Mrs. Medina, and George Marn as the newsreel reporter.
Latins in La-La Land includes graphic violence and is intended solely for mature audiences. Tickets are $9 for general admission, $6 for senior citizens, faculty, staff, and non-College of Wooster students. Wooster students are admitted free, but are advised to pick up their tickets at the box office head of time. For more information, phone 330-263-2241.