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[whitespace] 'La Posada Mágica'
Testing the Light: Jennifer Fagundes and Gary S. Martinez take a posada journey in Teatro Visión's new production at the Mexican Heritage Plaza.

Candle With Care

Teatro Visión's 'La Posada Mágica' tells a holiday tale of magic and mysticism

By Heather Zimmerman

THE SUGARPLUM FACTOR of holiday tales can go rather high, but any worthwhile holiday story isn't made of just comfort and joy: read right, even the holiday staple A Christmas Carol presents a healthy dose of the dark side of a season steeped in celebrating.

Likewise, Octavio Solis' La Posada Mágica recognizes that not everybody thinks the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. Teatro Visión stages a compassionate and warmly comic production of Solis' unusual Christmas story.

Grieving over the death of her little brother, the teenage Gracie (Jennifer Fagundes) won't celebrate Christmas this year. Opting out of her parents' Christmas Eve festivities, she nonetheless gets talked into joining a passing posada (a tradition in many Latin countries that recreates the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem with a processional through the neighborhood).

Frustrated that praying didn't save her brother, Gracie decides that blowing out the posada candle lighted in her name, as well as those lighted by the other participants in the religious processional, will soothe her anger.

But for every candle she extinguishes, one posada member disappears, until Gracie is left alone and in the dark in an unfamiliar neighborhood that soon proves perilous. Some very lucky--or perhaps divine?--coincidences help her reunite with the posada.

There's plenty of magic and mysticism afoot throughout La Posada Mágica, but Solis makes it part of the play's careful balancing act: magic with reality, grief with joy and a twinge of evil with good,

Even "miracles" here have a pedestrian streak, such as a walkie-talkie providing a voice from "on high." Solis infuses the play with a friendly jokiness, voiced very nicely through Horacio (Gary S. Martinez), the leader of the posada, who also acts as narrator, offering a good counterbalance to Gracie's drama and a voice of reason--though not an infallible one.

In fact, this posada is made up of devotees who are far from perfect. Each one is, likably, a bit selfish or vain or irresponsible. Director Tlaloc Rivas gives us time to appreciate each character and his or her minor flaws; the most enjoyable among them is Cain Camargo as Refugio, a would-be rocker who's dorky at heart, and Consuelo and Caridad (Yolanda Cotterall and Carla Pantoja), two women hankering after some chocolates donated to the posada's collection for charity.

Although La Posada Mágica is not an all-out musical, the actors do perform some rousing songs composed by Michael "Hawkeye" Herman that adeptly punctuate both the antics of the processional members and Gracie's sorrow. Additionally, the audience gets called on to join in and sing along with several songs.

Though it probably helps, it's not just the audience sing-along that makes La Posada Mágica feel so hands-on. Solis' inherently flawed but well-intentioned characters and the warmth with which he presents them makes for a holiday offering which celebrates not just general goodwill among people, but the hope for true understanding.

La Posada Mágica plays Thursday-Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through Dec. 17 at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, 1700 Alum Rock Rd, San Jose. Tickets are $10-$15 Thursday and Sunday, and $14-$17 Friday and Saturday. (800.MHC.VIVA)

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From the December 7-13, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 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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