MOXIE Theatre welcomes new season with Sapience World Premiere by Colombian Playwright Diana Burbano

Marking Vanessa Duron's Directorial Debut and Enrique Martinez's acting debut, the well-crafted piece also includes Sensory Friendly Initiatives

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Nancy Ross in Sapience. Photo Credit: MOXIE

MOXIE has always brought strong works to the community and with a solid message. Even unknowingly masterclass-ing to other companies. As their mission states  “to create more diverse and honest images of women for our culture.” and for this new season, amping it up a notch (or two) by co-producing with TuYo Theatre Sapience by Diana Burbano, along with sensory-friendly initiatives. 

Burbano originally from Colombia, is based in California, and developed Sapience in California as well in part with the Center Theatre Group’s L.A. Writers’ Workshop, supported in part by a grant from the Arts Council for Long Beach and the City of Long Beach. I believe the California tie makes it even more special. Elsa (Mariel León) is a young Latin American primatologist working with a female orangutan named Wookie (Nancy Ross). In her research supported by grants, donors, etc she is aiming to prove that Wookie can speak the human language. Jason (Alexander Guzman) is Elsa's ex-boyfriend, also a primatologist and colleague, AND still in love with her. They both are actually... Elsa's cousin Miri (Vanessa Duron) works with them in maintenance, she is smart and educated but not legal, so she has to navigate carefully and with her son A.J (Enrique Xavier Martinez) a teen on the autism spectrum, non-verbal.

Mariel León and Alexander Guzman in Sapience. Photo Credit: MOXIE 

Quite a bit to unpack here... 

At first when I read the synopsis, immediate thoughts of how the orangutan will be portrayed popped in. Will it be a puppet? how can this be presented properly? Nancy Ross does a very impressive job as Wookie with a delicate and graceful movement, barefoot, showing her dancing chops or well, physical training. The wardrobe too is great. Instead of furry gear or padding, Costume Designer Faith James creatively chose dark brown yoga pants with a maple cropped long sleeve top that falls on the shoulder. The maple color top is the same as the artwork. You know I love me some detail! I seriously could do a whole thesis on Wookie alone, but I will spare you. 

Miri is dedicated to A.J and his learning, even though she struggles at times, she is lovingly patient and is always paying attention. A.J cannot communicate verbally but he can with Wookie and they teach each other things like tying a knot, Ipad features, and mortality. Enrique Xavier Martinez in his theatre debut is just lovely. His scenes with Nancy are emotional yet balanced. It really is thought-provoking. At one point, Elsa as obsessed as she is with the research notices these exchanges between her nephew and the orangutan. She understands why and confesses to the audience that she too is on the autism spectrum but, neuronormative. Therefore, cannot communicate with Wookie as she would like, as A.J does and she compares it to "having only half the venom". I always chop off lines sadly (promise I will take notes) but that conclusion alone is so raw. The playwright is educating audiences a little bit on what it means to be in this world with autism.

Nancy Ross and Enrique Xavier Martinez in Sapience.
Photo Credit: MOXIE

The play in my eyes also includes some idiosyncrasies with the two cousins that definitely will vary depending on the person. Although Jason and Elsa love each other, Elsa gets overwhelmed and cannot reciprocate. Miri sees the opportunity and goes for it. A BIG NO-NO for me. But again, I know it will vary, and that is why theatre is so wonderful. Vanessa Duron is debuting as director with this amazing cast and does it flawlessly along with her portrayal of Miri delivering sassy, audacious, and fun as well as the exchanges between her and Mariel León. The first cousin behavior is spot on. It is also great to see different directors take the wheel because it definitely shines a fresh perspective on the work. Vanessa has definitely been a wonderful addition to the MOXIE team.

Alexander Guzman brings his well-known charm as Jason but gives him a tenderness as well. From taking care of Elsa and her work endeavors to getting to know Alex and being honest about his declining health. 

One of San Diego's favorites, Samantha Gin, brought her wonderful experience and knowledge as the inclusion specialist for this show. There is a red light on stage, where Elsa's office is that warns audiences about moments or sounds that could be triggering. Audiences also have the opportunity to step out during the performance if they need to catch a breather. Adam Parrocha designing both Wookie's world and Elsa's office did a great job with a very nice reveal towards the end of the show.

Aplauso de pie like we say in Spanish for MOXIE and this awesomely put-together, very necessary play.

AND you can see it anywhere because it is also available for streaming. Only four opportunities to catch it through the screen though so check it out ASAP.

The rest of the artistic team includes Stage Manager: Jessamyn Foster, Artistic Mentor: Delicia Turner Sonnenberg,  Lighting Designer: Colby Freel, Sound Designer: Mason Pilevsky, Props Designer: Alyssa Kane, Technical Director: Robert Malave, Assistant Technical Director: Katie Torretti, Scenic Artist: Julie Lorenz, TuYo Producers: Patrice Amon & Peter Cirino and MOXIE Artistic Director: Jennifer Eve Thorn.

For the in-person people, Sapience is currently playing until February 20. There is an ASL Performance: Sunday, February 13 at 2 PM.
Mariel León and Vanessa Durón in Sapience. Photo Credit: MOXIE

Single Tickets range from $22-44.

Rush Tickets: There is a limited number of $15 tickets available 1 hour before each performance for anyone facing financial hardship. Use code RUSH15 at check-out to purchase. Code only valid 1 hour before the show. First come, first served. 

For those who cannot afford tickets, there are also10 free tickets set aside for every performance and are available upon request.

Click here to see all this wonderful information.

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