Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

¡Ay, Compadre!

Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's review of Fulfillment Center

Photo by Del Cielo Productions
¡Ay, Compadre! is the second play by Rudolfo Anaya, often referred to as the "dean of Chicano literature." His 1972 novel "Bless Me, Ultima" is required reading for anyone interested in Latino culture or the American Southwest in general. The book is a Spanish/English treasure of charm. If he wrote nothing else, Anaya would deserve a permanent place in American letters.

Yet he wrote a lot more than that classic, and at 80 years old, he continues to write. His canon includes autobiographical novels, detective novels, short stories, children's fiction and plays. Anaya has been prolific over his 50-plus years of writing and publishing. ¡Ay, Compadre! is among seven published and performed plays he has created—so far. He has a knack for playwrighting, even though ¡Ay, Compadre! could use a bit more workshopping.

¡Ay, Compadre! takes up issues far from the world of "Ultima" or "Tortuga," his semi-autobiographical novel set in a New Mexico children's hospital in the 1950s. Yet this 1994 play may draw from autobiography as well. Anaya was 57 at the time, roughly the age of the major characters, Iggy (James P. Chavez) and Daniel (Tony Allred), and their wives Linda (Michelle Estrada Allred) and Helen (Dominique Facio).

All four of the characters are struggling with the difficulties of late middle-age. Iggy and Daniel are facing trouble with sexual performance, while Linda and Helen are dealing with menopause. Each character is in the process of recognizing—or in the case of Iggy, denying—that life isn't what it used to be. Iggy is having a particularly hard time since much of his Macho identity is tied to virility.

These are great issues for a play, and Anaya get us most of the way there. I feel the script needs a bit more work to squeeze out the full range of emotion in these characters and their individual crises. Some tightening to avoid redundancies and a deeper dive into betrayals within the two marriages would strengthen the story. Iggy gets let off the hook too easily by Helen and Daniel between the end of the first act and the beginning of the second. There is plenty of ground for suffering that goes without exploration.

Anaya also makes little use of two additional characters, Linda and Daniel's son Steve (George Quintero) and his Anglo girlfriend Ashley (Beatrice Villegas). Anaya has created the groundwork to make these two characters a catalyst to uncover uncomfortable secrets in the family, but instead, they distract from the theme of aging and its effect on difficult marriages.

Overall, director Evelyn Facio does a nice job presenting the story. There is some unevenness in the strengths of the actors. Casting may have been an issue, since this production runs at the same time as Blood Wedding at the Vortex. That production includes about 20 of the best Latino actors in Albuquerque.

Chavez is powerful as Iggy. He's been outstanding in every production I've seen him in. Here, he makes Iggy a wonderful force of nature. Allred as Linda and Facio as Helen are both excellent. The other three characters don't achieve the same performance level.

The set by Vincent Facio and Jose Quintana is great, as is the lighting by Vincent Facio. The music is also well chosen by director Facio.

¡Ay, Compadre!, through November 19, 2017, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Performances are at 7:30 Thursday through Saturday, and at 2:00 on Sunday. Tickets are $18, with a $2 discount for seniors and students, a $3 discount for NHCC members, and $10 for Thursday performances. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the NHCC at 246-2262, or go to