MALA is a universal piece on the meaning of the circle of life

Referencing Key, Tender Touches When Being Part of a Latin American Family  

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Melinda Lopez in Mala, 2022. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

If you read the pieces in this blog regarding theatre and performances, you will see a constant and very true statement about how powerful the art form is. I do not want to use the "I'm a Mexican woman" card for this blogview but I have to (lol). As any immigrant, or foreign person seeing foreign theatre, because American theatre is in some way foreign, you see and feel different things that the regular citizens sometimes do not.

I fear every time there is a BIPOC piece announced with bells and whistles because usually, it goes on to the vice of stereotypes, over told, abused, sad narratives and it makes us look like we are struggling all the time while being frustrated. Granted, not all pieces are like that and everybody feels sad and frustrated from time to time. With Mala, written by and starring Melinda Lopez, this one-woman show involves a universal story about getting old and what it means to slowly lose your independence. Melinda takes us through her experience with her Cuban-born mother while struggling with dementia and fighting the consequences that come with it like, forgetting where you are, falling, and antagonizing your loved ones. Hence the title Mala which means "bad" but as she explains, bad to your core, a bad person. And that is what mom calls her when she sends her off in an ambulance. "¡Tú eres mala!".

The marvel of this piece is that it does not have a label. It is not specific to Latin American people per se, it can be anybody going through -literally- the circle of life. What does resonate with the Latinamerican culture are the reactions and funny bits. Directed by David Dower, Melinda handles the stage gracefully and has a wonderful paced 360 rhythm facing the four sides of the audience in the round of the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre. Alexander V. Nichols's scenic design of a living room is detailed and tasteful with hardwood floors, a super cute table with a triangular base (wanted to take it home) and a chest that sort of symbolizes memories, pandora box style. The stage is surrounded by snow as a reference to blizzards that take place where they are and is also a canvas for the names of the people in this story as well as the feelings that come with what is happening. 

Melinda Lopez in Mala, 2022. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

The almost 90-minute piece with no intermission brings out different feelings that most of us have experienced while losing a loved one because of an illness and/or getting older. Still, the piece needs a bit of work and tightening. As talented as Melinda is and as wonderful as the stories she is sharing with us are, the portrayal of the different characters starts to get a bit tedious and that gets you out of the story and center which is the mom. I believe 15 to 20 minutes less in duration would be perfect.

A very cool aspect of this production and of The Old Globe by taking this leap is that there will be performances fully in Spanish with the amazing Yadira Correa who is also the understudy for the performances in English. Please note a super peeve of mine, that when you say "Spanish performances" or "Spanish" anything, it is making reference to the country, not the language? kicking all of Latinamerica to the curve? With that said, I will also be reviewing the performance IN Spanish with Yadira and not compare the two but, enrich the bilingual experience with both.

I also noticed and it made me sad to see the low attendance at the performance. And, it was opening night. Understandably, people still feel weird about indoor events and the COVID policies going everywhere from mask to no-mask, to "strongly encouraged". I will go ahead and assume that it might be because of the title in Spanish and it is not that appealing maybe? Whatever it is, it is necessary and important to come together and support live theatre.

  • The performances in English for Mala will be on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • The schedule for Mala in Spanish is Thursday, May 19 at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m.; Tuesday, May 24 at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 28 at 2:00 p.m.; Wednesday, June 1 at 7:00 p.m.; Sunday, June 5 at 7:00 p.m.; Friday, June 10 at 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, June 12 at 2:00 p.m.
  • After its run on The Old Globe’s stage, Mala will embark on an invitation-only spring Globe for All Tour, which will visit multiple venues across the binational region. The tour will run from June 15 to June 19 and will perform in English at Las Colinas Detention and Reentry Facility and at the San Diego Rescue Mission; and in Spanish at the following venues: San Diego Rescue Mission, Lauderbach Park, Otay Mesa-Nestor Branch Library, and Centro Cultural de Tijuana (CECUT) in Tijuana, Mexico. 
  • COVID Protocol:  Proof of vaccination and masks are no longer required, but masks are encouraged
For more information CLICK HERE.

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