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[whitespace] 'Harvest'
Rich Harvest: Ron Obregon, Jacob Vega/Canote and Carla Pantoja do justice to a well-crafted, witty script in their performance of 'Harvest Moon' at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

Muralistic 'Moon'

Art keeps family history alive in 'Harvest'

By Heather Zimmerman

WITH ITS CELEBRATION OF art--as a means of expression and a crucial way to preserve history both personal and public--José Cruz González's Harvest Moon is a fitting choice to kick off a landmark season for Teatro Visión; this fall, the company marks its 15th anniversary and its inaugural season in a new and permanent home, the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

Form truly follows function in this comedy/drama, composed of vignettes that literally bring to life the heritage of a young Chicano man as he learns about the art of Mexican mural painting. The play, in its poetic language and nonlinear structure, is much like a mural itself.

As Cuauhtemoc (Jacob Vega/ Canote) studies a mural painted by his deceased artist mother, Mariluz (Anna Maria Luera), her spirit steps out of the mural to guide him through the many stories depicted in her painting, which spans several generations and the work, play, art, politics and love that all defined Mariluz's life.

As a child during the '50s, she and her family were migrant farmworkers in California, and the scenes that Mariluz puts in the mural to portray her childhood not only reflect hardship but also show a loving family. In one humorous scene, her grandmother, Lupe (Elizabeth Vasquez Robinson), chases a tough old rooster with an axe. In a courageous moment, her mother, Gloria (Carla Pantoja), champions the United Farmworkers.

The scenes from Mariluz's life and her family's history are re-enacted in flashbacks, narrated by Mariluz for her son. Luera often joins in these recreated scenes, showing Mariluz at many different ages.

In fact, many of Mariluz's tales are flashbacks within flashbacks, as characters she remembers look back on other events. Particularly well done is a re-creation of the meeting between the fun-loving, hard-living Soto (Felipe Rodriguez) and a then relatively unknown Cesar Chavez.

Overshadowing these events on both the painted curtain that represents the mural and in many scenes onstage is Mariluz's death from breast cancer, most likely contracted from years of exposure to pesticides in the fields. Struggles and sickness are not downplayed in Harvest Moon, but the play focuses on the characters' strengths in coping with hard times. In particular, we see how art helped sustain Mariluz.

Overall, the play has a tongue-in-cheek, lighthearted quality about it, a sense of art celebrating and enriching life, even its downside moments, that director Amy González conveys with a light touch. It's said that comedy is harder to perform than drama, but despite some moving moments, the cast truly has a penchant for comedy, handily pulling off some hilarious scenes and doing justice to González's well-crafted, witty script.

Teatro Visión may have a lot of reasons to celebrate as it begins its new season, but the undercurrent of absolute vitality in this production seems attributable only to a pride and satisfaction much like that of Mariluz's, in the creation of a piece of memorable, meaningful art.

Harvest Moon plays Thursday-Saturday at 8pm through Oct. 23 at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, King and Alum Rock roads, San Jose. Tickets are $12-$17. (800.MHC.VIVA)

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From the October 21-27, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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