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Dream vs. Reality

Santos & Santos
Community and Conflict: Gary S. Martinez (front), Ron Obregón (from left, in back), Dario Loza and David Acevedo star in 'Santos & Santos.'

The rift in the heart of Chicanos is powerfully exposed in 'Santos'

By Heather Zimmerman

'WE GET BY any way we can" is one of the grim lessons that Tomás Santos, an idealistic attorney, learns in Santos & Santos, Teatro Visión's powerful season-opener. But even Machiavelli would be torn by the divisive issues raised in Octavio Solis' drama about a Chicano family struggling with the gap between the American dream from the American reality. The title refers to the Santos brothers' law firm but also invokes the adversarial qualities of a lawsuit, and with betrayal as one of the play's major themes, it does come down to Santos versus Santos at times.

Tomás (Dario Loza) joins his brothers' law firm in El Paso only to learn that his brothers, Fernie (Ron Obregón) and Mike (David Acevedo), have started a sideline to fund their "charity work" providing legal aid to the Mexican-American community: helping the Colombian drug cartels.

With this discovery, Tomás finds himself weighing his faith in the law against loyalty to his brothers and their work for la raza. Troubled by his brothers' apparent lawlessness and prodded by an opportunistic judge named Benton (George Killingsworth), Tomás calls the police on Fernie and Mike.

Benton is one of several characters who provide crucial clues to Tomás' true standing in the U.S. legal system. The judge has very publicly cultivated the votes of people of color; privately, he fantasizes about a Mexican prostitute he encountered in his youth. Benton fetishizes his memories, but the metaphor of screwing la raza is apparent too: he enlists a mercenary Chicano attorney, Gonzalez (David Gassner), to prosecute the case against Mike Santos. Turning against his own community, Gonzalez promises Mike's wife, Nena (Elisa Marina Gonzalez), that "this one's going down. I'm going up."

Gonzalez' remark implies that the American dream has corrupted the solidarity of Chicanos. The corruption is demonstrated in Tomás' "betrayal" of his brothers, by his belief that following the letter of the law will reap the most positive outcome. The duality of right and wrong and the many sides of the "truth" are pervasive themes in Santos & Santos--noble acts and betrayal sometimes prove to be the same thing.

In his narration to the audience, Tomás speaks many times of the corazon (the heart), which he says is a symbol for his people. In a more personal sense, it is also his conscience. When Tomás makes decisions, he is torn between acting for his own family and for la raza, which is also a kind of family. The heart operates on every level of betrayal and redemption in Santos & Santos, ultimately demonstrating that there is no absolute when it comes to justice.

Santos & Santos plays Thursday­Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through Sept. 6 at City Lights Theater, 529 S. Second St., San Jose. Tickets are $10­$14. (408/947-8227)

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From the Aug. 27-Sept. 3, 1997 issue of Metro.

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