‘Earthquake Sun’ traces timeless love

    The mind is a labyrinth of illusion,” says the old woman on stage. This statement seems to capture the creative mind of Luis Valdez, the “godfather” of Chicano theater, perfectly. “Earthquake Sun,” the multiple award-winning writer and director’s latest play, is a vision of a man traveling through three millennia in search of a lost love and lost brother. Though it boasts beautiful set designs, the play’s overdone script makes it only a mediocre show.

    “EarthquakeSun” is inspired by research into Mayan ideology and customs, namely the “Popol Vuh” (Mayan texts that include creation myths and history) and the “Rabinal Achi-The Warrior of Rabinal,” a religious dance drama over two thousand years old. The deciphering of Mayan hieroglyphics in recent decades has helped Valdez to add this cultural flair to his theatrical production.

    And what a production it is. The play begins very dramatically with a monologue by an old woman in a Mayan jungle in 712. Her role is to help Jaguar Kan, the protagonist played by Daniel Rangel, find his lost lover and twin brother throughout the whole play. The audience is led to understand and identify with the situation of a man who has been thrown several thousand years back in time. The flow and story of the play are undercut by Valdez’s feeble attempts to add humor through some very bad puns. At some points in the play, they are so overstated and poorly timed that one can’t help but flinch. They bring down the quality of the acting, giving the cast an air of humor even when they are attempting to depict serious situations. Some lines are so outrageously out of context that it might not be a bad idea for the theater to invest in a good editor to revise the script.

    Despite the poor quality of the script, “Earthquake Sun” is a visual treat. Sets constantly change to represent the years 712, 2012 and 3412. The transitions are very smooth, though, and the sets are appealing to the eyes.

    It is interesting to see Valdez’s vision of the 34th century, which includes double helixes alluding to DNA both in props as well as in costumes. These two elements help reinforce Valdez’s bleak prediction that in the 34th century, humanity is only surviving through cloning after the ban of sex. A Mayan jungle in the 8th century is also well-represented artistically through elaborate props and costumes including hieroglyphs carved into wooden doors and intricate feathered headpieces. Special effects such as strobe lights and good sound effects add to the sci-fi feel of this play and make the transitions between Kan’s time-traveling a lot smoother.

    Overall, “Earthquake Sun” should only be seen if there is nothing else to do or if one wants to delight in innovative set design.

    The play is running through May 16 at the Lyceum stage in Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego. Performances Tuesday and Sunday nights are at 7 p.m.; all other evening shows are at 8 p.m., with 2 p.m. matinees on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets range from $25.50 to $42.50 with student discounts available, and they can be purchased online at http://www.sandiegorep.com or at (619) 544-1000.

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