Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper was awesome y que? I’ll be honest. When I arrived to watch it the first time a few weeks ago, I was expecting to be bored. Instead, I was overwhelmed by my strong emotional response. It reminded me of watching the final scene of LA Bamba at the Mann Theater at the Esplanade Mall in Oxnard when I was a teenager. Watching Esai raise his hands to the heavens and yell out, “Ritchie!!!” I remember holding back the tears so my dad wouldn’t see me cry. This time around, a little older and wiser, I let the tears roll watching Hank Reina and El Pachuco on stage. This pinchi vato, so damn proud and full of swagger and style, at the center of a stage where the privileged (mostly white) come to be entertained.
All of Trump’s pedo rises up to the emotional surface. I’m forced to admit just how much all of his hate affects me. The play provides a release by articulating emotion that my intellectual-rational mind denies.
As a filmmaker, I always say that art, theater, and storytelling are essential functions of human life. This is why I do it. Then again, I don’t always buy my own B.S. But Luis Valdez and his cast brings this point home in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. Why in God’s name do we spend all this time on our art of storytelling? Henry Reina and El Pachuco made me think of all of my fictional heroes I’ve written: Paquito, Jerry Valdez, Jimmy Lopez, Juan Guzman, Angel Lopez, Manny Dominguez, Pete Cruz, Jaime Bravo, Veronica Martin. The play reminded me that stories reconnect us to who we are and what we hide in day-to-day social interaction.
Yeah, I am angry and proud like Hank and El Pachuco. Thanks Mr. Valdez and the cast and crew of Zoot Suit for reminding us why fictional stories and the theatre are still important.