Theater Review: The Revolutionist – The More Things Change, The More They Remain Same

The Gonzales family & Su Teatro cast members celebrate the special performance of "The Revolutionist" on what would have been the 90th birthday of the playwright and the family's patriarch  Rodolfo "Corky" GonzalesThe Gonzales family & Su Teatro cast members celebrate the special performance of "The Revolutionist" on what would have been the 90th birthday of the playwright and the family's patriarch Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales

Article & Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media

It’s the 1950’s in the living room of a housing project of a metropolitan city in the southwest U.S. It could easily be Denver’s North or West or East Side. The patriarch of the family of Mexican heritage dressed in a Charro suit with an ammunition belt strapped across his chest speaks to the audience reminiscing and stating, “I have been in many battles in my time. I rode with Pancho Villa when I was a boy. The times were hard. Life was hard in those days of of tears and blood.”

Jose Jaramillo "Papa' (center) played by Charlie Romero. Other cast members include Phil Luna, Camilo Luera, Christopher Pettis Jr. , Leslie Gomez Rocio Avila, Sabrina Montoya,Diego Estrada, George Sepmeier, Pricilla Martiez, Maru Garcia

Jose Jaramillo “Papa’ (center) played by Charlie Romero. Other cast members include Debra Gallegos, Phil Luna, Camilo Luera, Christopher Pettis Jr. , Leslie Gomez Rocio Avila, Sabrina Montoya,Diego Estrada, George Sepmeier,
Pricilla Martinez, Maru Garcia

Jose Jaramillo, ‘Papa’ as he is affectionately called goes on to say, “Yes, it was hard, but I was man, master of my home, poor but honest.” He concludes his introduction stating I almost lost it all some time back. I sank to the very bottom of the muck of this society. I was beaten to my knees. I couldn’t blame anyone not even the Anglos. It was the city. We were all victims of the city.”

Geraldine Romero Gonzales with special guest Daniel Valdez

Geraldine Romero Gonzales with special guest Daniel Valdez

An aging Papa endures his fate in the city he now finds himself in struggling to find work to provide for himself, his wife and unappreciative family which he must live with for the time being. His son receives unemployment and really doesn’t want to work.  The teenage grand kids fight over the radio oblivious to the world around them.

And so it goes as the family fights over money in the midst of a society full of division and racism. ICE arrests Papa and wants to deport him separating him from his wife and family.

The family soon realizes they are so caught up with themselves that they know nothing about their beloved Papa. The sacrifices he made during the Mexican Revolution so his family to be could have a better life someday. Papa is left to wonder what it was all for as he awaits his fate.

In watching this play written by Rudolfo “Corky” Gonzales and directed by Tony Garcia I couldn’t help but draw parallels to today’s condition. 2018 is not so different than the 1950’s society Gonzales wrote about in his 1966 play “The Revolutionist”. It seemed like the more things change, the more the remain the same.

Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales was born in Denver on June 18, 1928. He is considered by many as the father of the Chicano Movement. He passed away in April 2005

Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales was born in Denver on June 18, 1928. He is considered by many as the father of the Chicano Movement. He passed away in April 2005

ICE, racism and division are as prevalent now as they were then. Many are aghast at Trump anti-immigration policies that are separating families and promoting racism and hate. Yet they are issues Latinos have had to deal with for decades. Progress appears to be dissipating as the repressed racism unleashed by the current administration takes root.

Fortunately, this play comes at time when it is most needed. It reminds us that we must resist those elements of society which seek to oppress and exploit. As Gonzales himself wrote in his writings, ‘Message to Aztlan’, “We only talk of the past, because of the effects it has had on the present and what we must prepare for in the future”.

As Su Teatro’s Creative Director Tony Garcia reminded the audience prior to the performance “Before the Resistance…there was the Chicano Movement…Before the Movement…there was the REVOLUTIONIST!”

Actor & Songwriter Daniel Valdez serenades the Gonzales family with the Mexican birthday song "Las Mananitas" i

Actor & Songwriter Daniel Valdez serenades the Gonzales family with the Mexican birthday song “Las Mananitas” 

The Monday June, 18th production was a special performance in honor of what would have been Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales’ 90th birthday. The evening was celebrated by huge contingent of the Gonzales family including his widow Geraldine Romero Gonzales. Together Corky and Geraldine raised six daughters and two sons. Nita, Charlotte, Gina, Gail, Rudy, Joaquin, Cindy & Valerie. The evening was capped off with a serenade of the Mexican birthday song, Las Mananitas, performed by surprise guest, singer, song writer & actor Daniel Valdez who flew in from California for this special evening.

The Revolutionist plays the Su Teatro Cultural & Performing Arts Center through July 1st.

For tickets visit:  SuTeatro.org.

 

Photos by Joe Contreras, Latin Life Denver Media