Corridos! Tales of Passion


Elizabeth Murillo, Andres Ortiz and Leticia Flores-McPherson in Corridos!

By Philip Pearce

FROM EURIPIDES to Quentin Tarantino, sex and violence have always been mainstays of popular entertainment. A case in point is Corridos!, an energetic, episodic play with music that’s just begun a four weekends’ run at The Western Stage.

In a helpful program note, the show’s author/creator Luis Valdez explains that corridos are traditional ballads sung and narrated by Latino troubadours in the streets and cantinas and dance halls of Mexico. Famed founder of San Juan Bautista’s El Teatro Campesino, Valdez has dramatized six sample corridos and strung them together in a script that adroitly blends Spanish and English words and music. Screened subtitles and historic Mexican photographs insure that everyone gets the point.

The six stories shift period and setting from a village dancehall to a revolutionary campsite to a Roaring Twenties Mexican night club. But without exception they all deal with conflict, passion, blood and death. At least one (if not both) in the evening’s series of romantic lovers is not alive to tell the tale when their story ends. The vain and haughty Rosita Alvirez, for example, has been shot by a man she refused to dance with at a local party (though they are re-united in hell). Juan, the beloved of the lovely Conchita has been gunned down in the Mexican revolution. Wicked Cornelio Vega dies (of shame?) after lusting for his teen-aged daughter and starving her to death when she refuses his incestuous advances. It’s not a family show. For a modern-day American equivalent, think Frankie and Johnny unexpurgated or Roxie Hart with an X Certificate.

There’s nice mariachi style music, directed by Jesus Covarrubias and five other musicians, instrumental and vocal.

Led by the engaging Adam Saucedo as a narrator/m.c. known as El Maestro, the spirited cast of 14 tireless actor/singers each play a handful of roles. Directors Lorenzo Aragon and Cesar Flores keep the heavy breathing, bloodshed and gunfire moving with the speed of an old fashioned Saturday matinee movie western.