New play captures immigration, community
La Jolla Playhouse's current production brings border-crossing stories to the stage.
September 26, 2022
“No one has seen me in a long time,” says one Mexican-American immigrant in La Jolla Playhouse’s new show by Andrea Thome, Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes). The play, set in a shared Sanctuary space, follows six Latinx immigrants during a night of dance, food, self-exploration, and community. The Playhouse provided subtitle screens, showing English subtitles when the actors spoke Spanish, and vice versa.
The casting process was wildly successful, with actors onstage representing many different races, cultures, and genders. The play tackles the contrasting immigration stories of its ensemble– from being orphaned on this side of the border, to gaining citizenship, to living with an ankle monitor.
The show starts and returns to a place of joy, dance, and celebration throughout its 95-minute run time. Playwright Thome also focuses on the characters’ turbulent pasts, using set projections to portray different parts of their immigrations. Many of the characters journeyed with “coyotes”-paid guides who lead others across the border-putting their lives in the hands of strangers.
Once in America, their focuses shifted to caring for their families back home. In this way, the show’s central question becomes, “what lengths would you go to for your family (blood or found)?”
And Fandango is as beautiful as it is relevant, combining traditional staging with group choreography, hanging lights with sike sunsets. Patrons witness the complexities of trusting as an undocumented person, and how they must support each other while working to support themselves.
The plot, like life, had no clear endings. Love stories, individual struggles, and family health issues back home remain unresolved.
Despite much of the dialogue feeling intimate, none of it was casual. Conversations felt rehearsed, almost as if the company had their guard up even in their safe space. This touches on the fear of discovery many undocumented people hold with them.
The character dynamics, sudden changes in the script, and lighting choices prioritize a curated, lyrical storytelling approach, leaving audiences with a nuanced understanding of Mexican-American border crossing.
In many ways, the play feels like a museum of immigration stories-each well explained and embodied. The La Jolla Playhouse remains a leading force in promoting diverse and true-to-life narratives-Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes) is an excellent example.