Monday, April 8, 2019

“Adios Mama Carlota” @ The San Jose Stage Company

There’s no bad seat in the house.

Although I was sitting on the last row—also known as row 5—at The San Jose Stage Company (The Stage), it was far from a a typical nosebleed. As we sat around a beautiful and yet simple stage, the backing of the set contained picture frames that enveloped different projected images to tell us a story of each scene. From the beginning to the end, we witness the illusion and metaphors projected to us through the screens, lighting, costumes, and music on an unexpected true story of Mexico’s history with a contemporary and comical twist!

“Adios Mama Carlota, The Express of Mexico” is the world premiere production in partnership between The Stage and El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista written by Luis Valdez and directed by Luis’ son, Kinan Valdez. Before opening night, Kinan shared to The San Jose Blog that The Stage was a “home away from home” especially the intimateness of the small theater. Growing up witnessing his father’s work at El Teatro Campesino, Kinan truly felt humbled and honored being asked by his father and mentor to direct this production. Kinan not only hopes that the production will help audience members leave the show as true collaborators, but rethink on the history of imperialism and abuse of power noting the layers of humor throughout the story.

Set at least 150 years ago in Mexico, we are led by Empress Carlota played by a regular cast and staff member of The Stage, Allison F. Rich, whose bold eyes and body language can rivet anyone into a storyline. Her husband, Maximilian, played by Will Springhorn Jr., whose character’s interesting life lacked the true foundation in himself both as a leader and as a lover.

Instead of being a footnote in the history books of the United States, we get to unpack the story better including the remnants of the United States Civil War (with a brief appearance of President Lincoln) to the north, the political realities of leading a country at home and abroad, and layers of relationship issues including sexual morality. We are led along other supporting characters (including the multiple ghosts) played by cast members rooted in the partnership of The Stage (Martín Rojas Dietrich, Edward Hightower) and El Teatro Campesino (Estrella Esparaza-Johnson, Noé Yaocoatl Montoya). After seeing him perform in Hand to God and Newsies, it was not surprising to see Sean Okuniewicz play another seductive character but this time wearing (or growing) a large beard. And to round it off, nothing touched my heart more than Jessica Osegueda who enhanced her character and the entire storyline with a couple of musical and dance numbers.

Catch a performance playing from Wednesdays to Sundays now until April 28, 2019. You can purchase tickets online at The Stage website at or at their box office at 490 South 1st Street, San Jose, CA, 95113, (408) 283-7142. Discount tickets are available for students and seniors.

Written by John Huân Vu.

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