Eighteen-year-old Patricio Pinto played by 17-year-old Mathieu Caviness, in the early 1940's, wants to abandon his way of life as a devout Penitente and move far away from his mountain village of Tres Cruces, NM. He does not want to remain committed to the lifestyle his father and his extended family have lived for over one hundred years, a life he considers a setback even miserable, instead he wishes to move to southern California to become a famous writer. Torn between his new choice and his current vows, he embarks on his greatest journey of all, a journey inward.
Playwright Jo Roybal-Izay and author of the novel El Mochito Sephardim, spent over twenty years translating the ancient alabados/chants and orations of the Penitentes, of northern NM, and has written many articles and has lectured the subject at colleges and universities.
“Members of Los Penitentes are men of Spanish origin. They keep the passion of Christ ever present through prayer, chant, and meditation. Greatly exaggerated stories have circulated over the last 200 years. Secrecy among members is sacrosanct and a powerful hindrance for the scholars who study their religion. Their main objective is to live their lives as close to Christ’s life as possible, so that they can gain eternal salvation. They perform charitable acts as well. Don Miguel Archibeque, the late Hermano Supremo Arzobisbal told me: ‘When a man enters the brotherhood, he vows to help the needy. But unlike other charitable organizations, a Penitente never reveals his good deeds. It is between him and his creator.’ Miguel was a zealot when it came to guarding promises made to God,” said Roybal-Izay.
“The story spans 60 years and is well-worth telling,” said Pedro Garcia, Pharr Community Theater (PCT) artistic director, co-founder and co-producer. “I’ve worked this play about four times now in my now 36-year career in theater. I guess I like telling it.”
The one-act play, in English, directed by Seres Jaime Magaña, from McAllen, has a cast of nearly 10 local performers, including newcomer Dr. Juan M. Ortiz, a Pulmonologist & Critical Care Doctor from McAllen; he’s playing the role of the elder Patricio Pinto.
“I appreciate that the story presents a view of the Hispanic heritage so important and prevalent in the whole play and its relationship with the American culture… also its history around love and the priorities of human beings that transcend love and family. Patricio decided to just go for the ‘whole enchilada’ like he says in the play…later regretting every single bit in his life …and at the same time the love never disappeared. His horizons were a bit blurry when the power and the money were in front of him,” said Dr. Ortiz.
Others in the cast include Gina West-Kiern, from McAllen, as Mama Regina, Jaime Torres, from Edinburg, as Blas, Ashley Madel Cantu, from Pharr, as Rosana, Irma Farfán Cirlos, from McAllen, as Tia Perfecta, Mario Alberto Leal as Mr. Allison and Eli Martinez, from Weslaco, as a young Penitente. Priscilla Lozano from Edinburg is the Stage Manager.
The first five shows, March 15 to 19, will be held at PCT theater, 213 W. Newcombe (Park) Ave., Pharr (50 seats per show). Showtimes there are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
The final three performances from March 24 to 26 will be held at the Development Research Center, 850 W. Dicker Rd., Pharr (140 seats per show). Showtimes are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tickets for all shows are on sale in advance for $8 on PCT’s Eventbrite page or accessible through the PCT website at www.pharrcommunitytheater.com. Tickets will also be available at the door, for $10 starting one hour before curtain, upon availability.
For more info. Please visit the Pharr Community Theater FB page, the website at www.pharrcommunitytheater.com, or send a text to (956) 655-9308.