By Caroline Gonzalez

Feature photo by Johnny Knight, courtesy of ChicagoTheaterBeat.com

Nestled in my seat at Teatro Luna’s new performance space, I wait patiently for the show to start as couples and groups of young women trickle in. After a brief introduction, lights set and the sounds of Don Omar’s “Dale” carry us to the first monologue: a Colombian woman escaping life in Colombia and seeking refuge from her abusive husband in the American dream. By the time the girls in the taco commercial sing, “No son buenos pero que saben los gueros,” the efforts of their satire and multi-genre become entirely clear.

Crossed is a multi-textural play that is “dedicated to conversations about immigration, race, and borders,” according to Alexandra Meda, Teatro Luna’ s Executive Director. The boundaries that separate in this play go beyond the border that divides Mexico and the US, the south and the north. “What people often forget is that we are all ‘border-crossers’ in this hybrid American culture” (Gómez-Peña, 1996, p. i & ii).  The denial of the borders Americans pass through and the hate, fear, and misunderstanding that stem from such denial are at the heart of Crossed.

As recognized by Guillermo Gómez-Peña, borders do not merely exist between countries, states, and counties, marking geographical borders. Metaphorically, boundaries exist in multiple forms and multiple aspects of our daily lives. Teatro Luna navigates and mediates these border-crossings through humor and multi-genre performance pieces that operate as a looking glass through which the intangible borders often unapparent to the untrained, naked eye are magnified.

Examining the contemporary struggles and experience of Latina/os in the US during this sensitive time of fear and cultural segregation, its work achieves much more than simply confronting boundaries that separate. The work of Crossed documents the idiosyncrasies of life as an immigrant, or more specifically as a Latina.

Latinas face the everyday struggles of subsisting as the ‘exotic other’ in the US, but also carry the weight of womanhood in a society in which they are hypersexualized. Two strikes against us in this world still so unjust. Crossed understands the way in which Latinas traverse society and has used this knowledge to create a rich collection of performances that display such complexity.

Each performance piece chisels away at layers of meaning that use words, sometimes masked in the form of seemingly pleasant songs and television game shows, to cut through the discomfort of recognizing the pain and flaws of an American society that is still quite far from giving in to cultural hybridity and to understanding why borders, both tangible and not, must continue to be…crossed.

This play, however, should not be confused or misinterpreted as a US bashing of sorts. Crossed not only challenges the borders between the majority and the minority, but it also tackles the borders that exist within the Latino community, the ways in which Latinos separate themselves from one another, and the effects of internalized racism and colonialism. This aspect is perhaps the most interesting, since the failures to unite in our own community are less often acknowledged than are the ways in which we are marginalized.

Like a well-written essay, there was a common thread throughout the play that intricately weaves each performance piece within a larger border-crossing context. If you are feeling less than satiated and in the mood for a different stimulation of sorts, allow the “intellectual ‘coyote’” (Gómez-Peña, p. i) that is Teatro Luna’s Crossed to take you there.

Gómez-Peña, G. (1996). The new world border: Prophecies, poems, and loqueras for the end of the century.  City Lights Publishers.

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