By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Though storytelling is always about jumping to and from different viewpoints, Peterson simply can’t fuse the varying styles she’s employed to translate this epic, or, at least, to home in on a prevailing style that reflects a commitment to a point of view. She uses the Clash’s commedia skills to such distraction, she leaves Chavez Ravinesuspended, like the Dodger Dog Girl, somewhere between a lament and a lampoon. Imagine The Cherry Orchardperformed by Cheech and Chong.
For all its gimmicks, the docucomedy and its parade of players reflect prodigious research and a window onto a corner of our city that’s every bit as compelling as Chinatownand L.A. Confidential. Even though a poet guide (Siguenza) arrives like Dante’s Virgil a third of the way into the play, as though he got stuck on the Red Line on his way to the theater, the central conceit of Valenzuela on the mound, haunted by spirits (Dodger Stadium was built on burial grounds) is, well, hauntingly beautiful.
Rachel Hauck’s set transforms the Taper’s thrust stage into the Dodger infield, with graphic snatches of the familiar distance markers set at cubist angles on placards and pillars in nests of blue and white. Then the slide-projected emblems of the stadium dissolve into photographs of the Ravine from the late 1940s, suspended over the action in a kind, stoic counterpoint to the clowning below, a visual match for Peterson’s contrapuntal technique of storytelling that takes us from rage against the machine to sympathy for the devil.
But at what point does a multiplicity of angles devolve from enriching a saga into mere equivocation? It’s one thing to avoid making heroes out of victims, just because they’ve been victimized. But this story keeps landing on Maria, who’s no victim but a fighter like Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. Chavez Ravineflows toward an argument between Maria and the Future, and Peterson’s production, careening from a revered past to a hopeful future, from injustice to wisecracking, strives to be both above the argument and below it at the same time, like Dante doing a pratfall.
CHAVEZ RAVINE | By CULTURE CLASH | At the MARK TAPER FORUM, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown | Through July 6