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Theater review: 'Visitors' Guide to Arivaca' at Company of Angels

September 17, 2009 |  2:40 pm

Arivaca "Visitors' Guide to Arivaca" derives as much from factually informed intent as rampant topicality.  Evangeline Ordaz's heartfelt, much-researched response to the immigration debate operates from a decidedly populist perspective.

Commissioned by Borderlands Theatre in Tucson, Ariz., the action transpires around Arivaca, located on the southern Arizona border. It's a targeted entry point for Valente (appealing Justin Huen), a migrant worker who has seen his wife Linda (the touching Marissa Garcia) roughly six months out of their two-year marriage. This time, Linda refuses to wait out the uncertainty until Val returns and takes off with him.

Their perilous trek, hindered by coyote Jacinto (Richard Azurdia), forms one thread in Ordaz's sprawling plot. Another storyline concerns beleaguered rancher Iris (Kathleen Coyne). After a fleeing illegal goes into seizures on her property, Iris' humanitarian actions land her in federal lockup. Here, she meets Big John (Tony Gatto), an itinerant vigilante from Oklahoma, who represents yet another aspect of this daunting national dilemma. As does George (Andrew Roa), defying his Tohono O'odham tribe by setting up water stations. And there are still more characters and issues.

Director Armando Molina oversees some striking designs, particularly Bosco Flanagan's evocative lighting. If his large cast varies in polish, their uniform commitment recalls many Cornerstone Theatre projects over the years. 

That goes double for Ordaz's script, though it overloads on pamphleteering and statistical explanations, and could benefit from trims. But if "Visitors' Guide" seems most rewardingly destined for the national academic/community events circuit, its worth is self-evident.

--David C. Nichols

"Visitors' Guide to Arivaca," Company of Angels at the Alexandria Hotel, 501 S. Spring St., L.A. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 4. $20. (323) 883-1717. Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.

Photo: from left: Marissa Garcia,  Daniel Chacon  and Tina Sanchez in "Visitors' Guide to Arivaca' Credit: Company of Angels