by Karin McKie

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday October 19, 2017


"Amarillo" recounts the timeless, topical and tragic stories of Mexicans crossing the desert north to seek new opportunities in the "yellow" Texas panhandle town, as part of Destinos: The 1st Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, running citywide through October 29, with this production at Chicago Shakespeare's The Yard space, still sporting that new theater smell.

Devised and directed by Jorge A. Vargas, Teatro Lnea de Sombra's hour-long, multi-media meditation provides voces contra el silencio, voices against the silence. The patchwork program follows Jerzy Grotowski's "poor theater" ethos by combining snippets of text and music, sparse symbolic props plus repetitive gestures, traditional and modern dance to tell the circular tale of an Everyman who seeks to enter the U.S., then is never heard from again, becoming one of the countless desaparecidos, the disappeared, despite the Everywomen left behind, searching and wondering.

The giant, white wall looms at the back of the stage, and Ral Mendoza (also Video/Mechanism Creator) prepares for, then embarks on his doomed journey. His white-bearded "coyote" smuggler Jesus Cuevas provides a constant, looming presence and the ominous soundscape via Mongolian throat singing.

The narrator says he tells his story "because I don't have the means to rest peacefully."

"In death, I must live," he adds.

The other performer/creators -- Antgona Gonzlez (also Technical Assistant), Alicia Laguna (also Executive Producer), Mara Luna and Vianey Salina -- work the wings, building escape kits of clothes and food, and controlling and distributing sand conveyances (that create haunting desert noises) and rectangular, opaque jugs of water.

The entire enterprise is filmed from angles on and above stage, then projected onto the wall-cum-scrim. From the top view, their ritual of placing the jugs appears like placing tombstones in a graveyard.

"We could all survive with what our countries already have," the English surtitles explain, a necessity for the Spanish language show, albeit distracting from the constant movement down below. Did we miss something? Did another death go undetected or mourned?

They also wonder, "Where does Mexico end, and the U.S. begin?"

Name and age statistics are listed, missing posters and hazardous, hitchhiking train rides are projected, as is a crawl of Harold Pinter's 1997 "Death" poem, an apt summation of the intriguing, jumbled piece's thesis on telling the immigrant's tale:

Where was the body found?

Who found the dead body?

Was the dead body dead when found?

How was the dead body found?

Who was the dead body?

Who was the father or daughter or brother

Or uncle or sister or mother or son

Of the dead and abandoned body?

Was the body dead when abandoned?

Was the body abandoned?

By whom had it been abandoned?

Was the dead body naked or dressed for a journey?

What made you declare the dead body dead?

Did you declare the dead body dead?

How well did you know the dead body?

How did you know the body was dead?

Did you wash the dead body

Did you close both its eyes

Did you bury the body

Did you leave it abandoned

Did you kiss the dead body

Destinos will have performances by various companies at venues including the National Museum of Mexican Art, Steppenwolf's 1700 Theatre, and Victory Gardens Theater. For the schedule, visit the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance at

Teatro Lnea de Sombra's "Amarillo" runs through October 29 as part of Destinos: The 1st Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand Ave. For tickets and information, visit

Karin McKie is a writer, educator and activist at