Bryan Fonseca and Tom Horan, Phoenix Theatre artistic director and playwright in residence, respectively, have combined their immense talents to create “Leyenda,” now playing on the Steve and Livia Russell Stage through May 1. This reviewer attended Friday opening night performance.
“Leyenda,” which is Spanish for “legend,” is a dramatized compilation of Latino folks tales, based on interviews conducted with members of Indy’s Latino community. Also directed by Fonseca (who himself claims a Latino heritage) the play is performed in English (with some Spanish spoken), but the two final performances on April 30 and May 1 will be performed completely in Spanish.
The production which is receiving its world premiere at the Phoenix is part of its Heritage Series and is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts – Art Works. It features traditional dancing, choreographed by Mariel Greenlee, and music. Then, of course, there are the fascinating stories themselves which cover topics related to life, nature and folklore—all tinged with magic realism—a staple of Latino literature.
90 minutes in length, with no intermission, “Leyenda” includes tales with titles such as “La Esmeralda Lagartija,” or The Emerald Lizard,” “El Cucuy,” or “The Bogeyman,” “El Marido Ratonero,” or “The Buzzard Husband,” and “La Lorona, or “The Weeping Woman.” Predictably, each story has a moral and they all convey positive messages that have been passed down in an oral tradition from generation to generation.
Telling the stories, an assortment of jewels collected by Horan and Fonseca, is a group of skilled performers that include Jean Arnold, Paeton Chavis, A.J. Morrison, Keith Potts, and Bridgette Richards. Though, none, presumably are Latino themselves, the actors spoke Spanish reasonably well, and when speaking English with accents, they all, fortunately, veered away from stereotypical treatments.
The production’s technical elements are among the finest seen by this critic this season on any stage. Deserving of plaudits for wondrously capturing the colorful, romantic, and exotic qualities of Latin American culture are set designer Bernie Killian, technical director, light designer Jeffrey Martin, sound designer Tom Horan, and costumer and props designer Emily McGee.
Considering the fact that this writer has Mexican roots, it goes without saying, that “Leyenda” held special appeal but any theater lover will appreciate what the production offers in terms of the lessons it offers, its visual richness and its transportive powers.
Tickets for “Leyenda” may be purchased by calling the box office at (317) 635-7529 or visiting phoenixtheatre.org. Tickets are $27 per person on Thursdays and Sundays, $33 per person on Fridays and Saturdays, and $20 for anyone 21 & under. Curtain times for the production are: Thursdays at 7 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m.