Arts & Culture

‘Dreamlandia’ brings bittersweet tale of war on drugs to life

Sock and Buskin’s latest play grapples with racism, xenophobia, Mexican-American border tensions

contributing writer
Monday, October 2, 2017

“Dreamlandia” — a reference to the nostalgia for a home of dreams, sorrows and memories left behind by an undocumented girl living in Texas — is something of an autological title. The play, presented by Sock and Buskin and the Theatre Arts and Performance Studies department, tells the story of a group of people living near the Mexican-American border, with its central plot line punctuated by surreal dream sequences and omniscient perspectives of the places the characters travel between.

Many central themes piece the production together — internalized racism, xenophobia and Mexico’s war on narcotics. In telling this story, director Sarah dAngelo, Assistant Professor of the Theatre Arts and Performance Studies hopes that “audiences will gain a greater awareness of the untold issues of border politics, … especially in relation to human rights,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.

The play’s brief opening scene — marked by a woman’s screams  amidst dramatic lighting — sets off a series of events that bring the characters to their initial circumstances. At the beginning of the play, a woman dies of childbirth because her husband refuses to take her to the hospital for fear that this might tip the authorities to his status as a criminal.  Rather than admitting to his role in his cocaine-addicted wife’s passing, drug lord Celestino Robles, played by Marlon Jiménez Oviedo ’22 MFA, accuses the midwife Dolores (Paola Jimenez ’20) of witchcraft. He then proceeds to have her and her family deported, separating them from Dolores’ white American lover and causing her irreparable trauma that leads to her early demise some years later.

Ana Rosa Marx ’18.5 plays Blanca, a tenacious and resilient young Mexican woman, who decides to cross the border in search for her biological father, bringing along her “brain-damaged” brother, Pepín (Jorge Sanchez Garcia ’20), whose presence makes for comic relief but also reveals some of the most hypocritical aspects of proponents of border control. Her mother, though deceased, appears to nearly all of the characters in hallucinations, reminding them of their strengths and previous follies. In Texas, Blanca meets Celestino’s grown-up son, a young man named Lazaro (Sebastián Otero Oliveras ’18), chained to an island due to his father’s fear of the witchy midwife’s “curse” on their family.

Blanca eventually finds her father, Frank (Ben Hayslett ’18.5), who — ironically — is revealed to be the head of the border patrol guard and Celestino’s right-hand man. When she is caught by guards who work for her father, she finds work as a tutor for the newly released Lazaro. Blanca’s introduction to this world enables the audience to plunge into the life of Celestino and his business as a drug lord. Celestino and his partner Sonia (Yurema Perez-Hinojosa ’20) attempt to train Lazaro to take over his drug maquiladora empire. At the same time, Blanca“Dreamlandia” — a reference to the nostalgia for a home of dreams, sorrows and memories left behind by an undocumented girl living in Texas — is something of an autological title. to contain her shock and confusion when she discovers her father is white—“What am I? What race dries up when another grows?” Celestino’s hypocrisy shows when he later admits he crossed the border illegally as a child — yet has no sympathy for his undocumented workers who are murdered in droves and demands Blanca’s deportation. In a comedic subplot, Pepín ironically becomes a border patrol guard, only to be stripped of his role when his undocumented status is found out.

The play’s bittersweet ending comes after devastation and loss befalls each of the main characters. But reconciliation and repentance bring closure and true freedom to Blanca, Lazaro and their fathers. Their fates are left ultimately uncertain, but the viewer leaves with a sense of optimism: as maintained by a business partner of Lazaro’s — “the real narcotic is hope.”