Undermain Theatre has an uncanny knack for producing plays that combine the surreal with the actual, the fantastic with the everyday. Strangeness freely mingles with the ordinary. In the first part of the trilogy, So Go the Ghosts of Mexico, by Matthew Paul Olmos, the heroine takes on the job of Police Chief, when the previous one is murdered, and no one else interested. Young, pretty, married and pregnant, she is done with the terror, corruption and violence that poisons the life of she, her husband and community. Her husband, is, of course, aghast. He wastes no opportunities to make her feel guilty, despite her exceptional heroism and valor. He just wants a wife content with raising their children and keeping out of harm’s way.
Based on a true story, A Brave Woman in Mexico, uses the components of theatre to explain how one woman is able to turn a situation that is beyond hopeless. And she does so without firearms, killing, or strong-arm tactics. The drug dealers and thugs are gobsmacked and utterly incredulous. They think she’s insane. And so do we. Yes, this woman is, in her own way, extraordinary. But it’s not as if she’s impervious to violence or mayhem. Maybe she’s far more extraordinary than she seems. It’s as if she’s somehow tapped into a transcendent power facilitated by utter faith in what’s right. Almost a secular saint. Coming from her worldview, she’s really just being practical. She doesn’t believe the answer to taking lives is to take more. Her female gender (or so Olmos would suggest) removes her from the folly of the endless pissing contest.
Then there’s the aspect of the supernatural. Perhaps more probable in a culture that believes the dead move freely (if invisibly) among the living. Where two days each November they are celebrated with altars and feasts. Olmos takes deliberate steps to make the miraculous (if not celestial) palpable and comprehensible within the realms of verisimilitude. The brave woman (as she is identified in the program) doesn’t understand how her radio channels with no apparent source of energy, but she utilizes it. When the grisly ghost of the former police chief helps with her struggle, she’s not exactly disaffected, but she goes with it. Er, him. Without revealing more details, Olmos embraces the possibility that phenomenal strength of character and refusal to back down, can transform a world drowning in drek. He does so without blinking or taking refuge in irony. The Undermain is like a temple for the weary and cynical, and this is a splendid, sophisticated, subtly persuasive show.
Undermain Theatre presents: So Go the Ghosts of Mexico : Part One : A Brave Woman in Mexico, playing September 14th-October 8th, 2016. 3200 Main Street, Dallas, Texas 75226. 214-747-1424. www.undermain.org