Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Magic Theatre
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's reviews of The Last Tiger in Haiti, The Quality of Life and Titanic and Richard's reviews of Casa Valentina, Shocktoberfest 17: Pyramid of Freaks

Richard Montoya and Sean San José
Photo by Jennifer Reiley
The Magic Theatre opens its 50th season with the rolling word premiere production of Richard Montoya's Nogales. The playwright is a member of the acclaimed Chicano performance troupe Culture Clash. This is a dazzling interpretation of the true story of a boy from Nogales, Mexico who was shot and killed by a U.S. border patrol agent.

On October 10, 2012, Jose Antonio Elena Rodriquez, 15, was walking home late from a pickup basketball game with friends. About 30 feet from the border fence he was gunned down. A border agent from Arizona fired the shots through the international border fence into Mexico. The agent, Lonnie Ray Swartz, faces murder charges in a trial scheduled to begin in November in Tucson. He alleges Jose Antonio was throwing rocks at the agent before he ended up with 15 bullets in his body.

Nogales is a brilliant 90-minute no intermission docudrama with video projections on three screens in the background of the intimate three-sided theatre. It's performed by an outstanding seven-member cast and brilliantly directed by Sean San José. The set by Tanya Orellana, costumes by Courtney Flores, and lighting by Alejandro Acosta add excitement to this production.

Jose Antonio (Stephen Narcho) silently wanders in and out of the stage action after his own death. Playwright Richard Montoya is outstanding as the notorious right-wing sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. He displays stunningly rapid-fire hostility toward people of color. Montoya captures his charisma and appeal as well as conveying a warning. He even says "And let's make America great again, baby." Where have I heard that before? Sean San José vividly plays the priest investigating the killing of Jose. Juan Amador, Laura Espino, Eliana Lépez, Stephen Narcho, and Carla Pantoja luminously play many parts in this docudrama.

The real sheriff is shown in video designer and photographer Joan Osato's spectacular video projections on the three upstage screens along with other images from the borderlands. There is dancing and singing in this amazing production as well as extensive soliloquies. There is even a miniature diorama of the town of Nogales by Tanya Orellana.

Nogales is a bold commentary on racism, police brutality, and anti-immigration practices. The drama runs through October 30th, 2016, at the Magic Theatre, Ft. Mason Center, 2 Marina Blvd, Building D, 3rd floor, San Francisco. Tickets at 415-441-8822 or online at Coming next is Sam Shepard's Fool for Love opening February 1, 2017, and running through February 28th.

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