Midway through American Mariachi, a mariachi player explains the Mexican genre by its instruments. The bass, begins Mino, is the heart of the band. He then moves on to describe the role of each instrument to his eager listeners: five young Latinas hoping to start their own all-female band. To traditionalists, women playing the beloved folk music is a sacrilege – even in the United States and even in the 1970s with women’s lib sweeping the nation.
José Cruz González’ script, directed by Henry Godinez and running through October 24th at Goodman Theatre, imagines a scrappy group of women determined to break the gender barrier. There is Lucha who wants to spark her dementia-riddled mother’s memory of a beloved song, Soyla the flamboyant hairdresser with no musical experience, Isabel who has the voice of an angel and a bully of a husband, Gabby the lonely heart with megaphone pipes and Lucha’s cousin Boli who can’t wait to be a “bad ass.”
Goodman Theatre Production Interplays Mariachis
Throughout, American Mariachi’s features an interplay of professional, aspiring and imaginary musicians. The pros are men from Chicago’s Sones de Mexico Ensemble, who both entertain and instruct throughout the show. The aspiring are the women who finally land a first gig performing at a tacky quinceañera. And the imaginary is Tia Carmen, Lucha’s aunt who drowned years earlier and who haunts Lucha’s mother’s mind as a Day of the Dead mariachi.
American Mariachi strikes notes that will likely reach those for whom mariachi is a touchpoint. For others who might not catch all of the cultural references, the music still captivates. In this writer’s view, however, the story itself lacks the subtlety of the instruments onstage. Much of the dialogue seems clumsy, the characterizations are mostly broad strokes and the actors often deliver their lines in a fuller than necessary throttle.
American Mariachi may not appeal to theatergoers seeking fresh insights into human nature. But a heartfelt sweetness permeates every moment of this musical tribute – co-produced by Goodman Theatre and Dallas Theater Center in association with Chicago Latino Theater Alliance – and that is apt to please all ears.
Now through October 24, 2021
Wednesdays at 7:30 PM
Thursdays at 2:00 & 7:30 PM
Fridays at 8:00 PM
Saturdays at 2:00 & 8:00 PM
Sundays at 2:00 PM
Check calendar for additional performances
170 N. Dearborn
Gloria Vivica Benavides, Gigi Cervantes, Lucy Godínez, Ricardo Gutiérrez, Molly Hernández, Eréndira Izguerra, Amanda Raquel Martinez, Bobby Plasencia, Christopher Llewyn Ramirez, Tiffany Solano
Juan Dies, Victor Pichardo, Zacbé Pichardo, Rodolfo “Rudy” Pinón
José Cruz González (playwright)
Henry Godinez (director)
Linda Buchanan (set designer)
Danielle Nieves (costume designer)
María-Cristina Fusté (lighting designer)
Ray Nardelli (sound design)
Victor Pichardo (music director)
Briana J. Fahey (production stage manager)
Nikki Blue (stage manager)
About the Author: Susan Lieberman
Susan Lieberman is a Jeff-winning playwright, journalist, teacher and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre. Her radio drama In the Shadows aired on BBC Radio 4 last season.