Luis Valdez and El Teatro Campesino have done us all a great favor in the guise of his new play, Valley of the Heart.
Often, when visiting productions at El Teatro, one may feel a bit of an outsider. As if you are being allowed to watch someone's family functions. Those of us who struggle with the language, or are unfamiliar with the culture can leave feeling unfulfilled, though our interest may become stimulated.
There are no such issues with this play. By melding the stories of a Japanese-American landowning family and it's sharecropping Mexican-American tenant family, Valdez has somehow also made it our story.
Often, when a ethnic group which is struggling for it's identity in the larger community, there is a bit of elbowing to be in front. Here the Japanese-American experience is valued every bit as much as the Mexican-American Experience. The respect is in evidence from the first minute.
In this play, we are given a chance to watch and feel for these families who they do not seem different from us. The bridges Valdez has built, between the lovers, the families, the past and present, the music of the cultures and the one connecting us to the stories of his characters, are strong and welcome.
This is certainly a Valley of the Heart, but along with it is a great deal of Humor and Humanity as well.
The acting and staging are also strong. The actors were sought from Southern California and the Bay Area, as well as some local talent. Those who go will experience a different visual experience than may be familiar in theater. I did! I felt it was used to good effect.
I am one of those people who hates to know anything about a book, story or film before I go. I only need to know if it is worth my time and attention. I will not reveal the plot, but I will let you know that it is certainly worth your time and attention. Tickets are going fast, so be warned, if you don't act soon your choices will be limited.
Though it only runs in San Juan until Sept 22, this is a play which will find resonance for a long time. Certainly for those who lived through the days of World War 2 on the homefront and those of us who want to know about what that was like. I suspect the town of it's setting, Cupertino, and the Santa Clara Valley, will embrace it's story strongly as well.
There are preview performances on Thursday and Friday prior to Opening Night on Saturday.
In San Juan . . .We wave!