Monday, September 12, 2022

Theater Review: Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes)


                The cast of "Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes)"

A fandango is a spirited dance which brings a Latino community together in celebration.

The new musical “Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes),” just opened at La Jolla Playhouse’s Forum Theatre, is the West Coast premiere of a portrait of the immigrant experience written in 2020 by Chilean/Costa-Rican playwright Andrea Thome. It was produced originally by En Garde Arts.

Originally set in New York, Director José Zayas gives this production a West Coast flair by setting it in Barrio Logan, among six people who have managed to cross the border. Two are legal, but some of the others are fearful of an ICE raid that could send them back.

The characters are identifiable, likable and well played all around in this bilingual production in which all the lines are in English and all the songs in Spanish. But all words are translated on screens above the stage.

Mariposa (Jen Anaya), the “mother hen” of the group, is a deli worker attracted to a stable worker named Rogelio (Carlo Albán). The problem is that he is still married to the wife he left in Honduras a decade ago.

Danny Ray Caraballo is extremely effective as Rogelio’s cousin Elvin, another stable worker whose fear of deportation is heightened by the forced necessity of the ankle monitor he wears.

Rogelio’s other cousin Johan (played excellently by Roberto Tolentino) fears deportation for another reason: he’s gay, and fled Honduras in fear of his life.

Teen-aged Rafaela (Silvia Dionicio) from the Dominican Republic, was abandoned as a baby and raised in the U.S. She dreams of becoming a cop. And young Frances Ines Rodriguez provides both comic relief and tech savvy as Pili. Rafaela and Pili are both legal residents.

Composer Sinuhé Padilla and violinist Tania Mesa grace the stage with lovely musical accompaniment. Sometimes the music inspires one or more of them to climb up on a raised wooden platform called a tarima and show off the fancy footwork of a dance called the zapateado. (The platform even has a hole in front to heighten the sound effects.) The dances are delightful, perhaps even the best thing about the show.

Wannabe immigrants are not news to San Diegans, but Thome and Padilla, with this very human story, bring us welcome relief from the law enforcement/rightwing isolationist angles we are so used to hearing. Bravo to all.

The details

“Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes)” plays through Sept. 25, 2022 at La Jolla Playhouse’s Forum Theatre, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive.

Shows Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.; Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday at 2 and 7 p.m.

Tickets:; (858) 550-1010

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