Ion Theatre's Lydia is really a play about two women: Lydia, a young undocumented woman apparently from Jalisco who is hired as a maid for a family in El Paso, Texas, that has come El Norte; and Ceci, the family daughter, who after a horrific car crash is left a quadriplegic and brain damaged. Or are they two women, but two women possessing the same soul? You can't be sure in the mutable world of magical realism, and such is the case in Octavio Solis' 2008 work, directed at ion by its executive artistic director, Claudio Raygoza.
As in some other magical realism stories—Laura Esquivel's much-sunnier Like Water for Chocolate comes to mind—a character with life-giving faculties has a profound effect on others whose essences are broken or wayward. The titular Lydia (the enchanting Nadia Guevara) bonds at once with the crippled Ceci (Jennifer Paredes), understanding her when no one else can, and expressing to the rest of the seriously dysfunctional border family so much of what Ceci, in flashbacks or fervid out-of-body monologues, wants herself to say and feel. Stunned in different ways by this seemingly supernatural symbiosis is father Claudio (John Anthony Delgado), a simmering brute awash in booze; mother Rosa (Sandra Ruiz), who wishes to defer everything to God's will; sons Rene (Richard Johnson), a gay basher by night, and would-be poet Misha (Bernardo Mazon), the one family member with true sensitivity and intuition; and cousin Alvaro (Alexander Guzman), much to everyone's alarm a newly branded Border Patrol officer.
Hovering over them all, menacingly, is a dark secret about the auto accident that has wrought all the subsequent violence and robbed Ceci of love, of her sexuality, and of course of her functionality. The consequences of these human beings being human are brutality and denial and guilt—until Lydia arrives and, for a while, everything changes.
This production is beautifully directed by Raygoza and gifted by evocative performances from ion newcomers Guevara and Mazon, especially. But it's a gut-wrenching couple of hours of theater—witness the seat next to me, occupied by a woman who by playís end was a mucus-y mess.
Lydia runs through July 2 at ion theatreís BLKBOX in Hillcrest. $32. iontheatre.com
—David L. Coddon
Theater reviews run weekly.
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