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Dream Dance

[whitespace] The spirit moves in Teatro Visión play

By Anne Gelhaus

THE TECHNICAL and the traditional combine to great effect in Teatro Visión's production of Spirit Dancing, creating worlds within worlds on the tiny stage of City Lights Theater. Playwright José Cruz González has not only set his drama in two physical locations but has also allowed the spirit world to overlap into both. After losing his son to drowning and his wife to madness, Cruz Miranda (Joseph Donés) flees Tucson, Ariz., and returns to his native village in Mexico's Sonoran desert. His amnesiac wife, Sombra (Yolanda Cotterall), meanwhile, wanders the streets of Tucson searching for clues to her past.

The Mirandas' story is framed by a Yaqui Indian legend about two spirits who fell in love and fled their world, fearing vengeance by the warrior god to whom the girl was betrothed. The wrathful warrior (Cesar E. Flores) caught up to the spirits, taking their child and turning each into a mountain. It is under these mountains that Cruz waits for the spirits to guide him, while back in Tucson, Sombra is visited by ghosts who help her regain her identity.

The old folk tale flows nicely into González's retelling of it, helped in large part by the show's visual aspects. Scenic artist Carlos Pérez and scenic designer Paul Skelton have created a split set, with a microcosmic yet detailed rendering of Tucson on one side of the "border" and a similar treatment of the Sonoran village on the other. Lighting designer Tanya Salazar gives both places the proper sun-baked look and adds some nice otherworldly touches to the scenes that take place in the spirit realm. Costume designer Richard Sanchez and properties designer Diane Way further distinguish the real from the surreal with traditional Native American masks for the spirits and contemporary fashions for their modern-day counterparts. The Teatro cast makes good use of all it has at its disposal, slipping gracefully from location to location and persona to persona.

Even with all the leaps they are required to make to follow the story, it's doubtful that audiences will be surprised by any of the revelations; the plot twists are all telegraphed fairly early, so the enjoyment is not in wondering how things will unfold but where. In Spirit Dancing, the chasm between the mystical and the mundane is no greater than the distance between the characters seeking to bridge the emotional gaps in their lives.

Spirit Dancing plays Thursday-Saturday at 8pm through June 27 at City Lights Theater, 529 S. Second St., San Jose. Tickets are $8-$15. (408/947-8227)

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From the June 25-July 1, 1998 issue of Metro.

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