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Theater Review: “Into The Beautiful North”

“Into The Beautiful North” plays through April 23, 2017
Photo credit:
San Diego Repertory Theatre

Everybody’s looking for something. Nayeli, the 19-year-old karate-chopping heroine of Karen Zacarias’ “Into The Beautiful North,” is looking for a few good men. Seven, to be exact, and the “Magnificent Seven” of movie fame would do nicely, thank you.'

Nayeli lives in Tres Camarones, a tiny town in the Mexican state of Nayarit, where her aunt Irma is running for mayor.

Nayeli has noticed that Tres Camarones lacks men; it seems they’ve all left for work in “Yunites” -- the U.S. -- and life is going to hell in a handbasket without them.

Nayeli has another motive: her father has been in Yunites for some years, and she longs to reconnect in person – and bring him home.

Nayeli’s friend Veronica has recently gone vampire, wearing black and calling herself Vampi. Vampi wants a boyfriend. So does their friend “taco master” Tacho, the très gay owner of La Mano Caida (the limp wrist) cantina and Internet café. 

With the encouragement of Nayeli’s aunt Irma, these three musketeers decide to cross the border to find seven magnificent Mexican immigrants to bring home with them to save Tres Camarones.

Aren’t there easier ways to save your town, you ask? Maybe.

But then we wouldn’t have the delight of watching this funny and touching play.

San Diego Repertory Theatre presents the world premiere of “Into The Beautiful North” (based on Tijuana native Luis Urrea’s novel) through April 23. Sam Woodhouse directs this, the 52nd mainstage production of a play by a Latino writer in the Rep’s history.

The fearless trio will encounter common border problems like thieves and police abuse and will get bitten (figuratively) by a human coyote, but persevere to cross again.

They will also encounter kindness and the experience the beauty of snow and nature (in Colorado). And fear at the immigrant-owned La Puerta Mexican restaurant, where they will be tossed out as soon as it is discovered that they crossed illegally.

Ramirez is a delight as Nayeli who “dances down the street” in search of papa and six other men to save her town.

Jennifer Paredes is a hoot as Latina goth Vampi and a great foil for Bryant Hernandez’ ebullient Tacho.

Javier Guerrero, Xavi Moreno, Jorge Rodriguez and the Rep’s Playwright-in-Residence Herbert Siguenza all play multiple parts. You’ll remember especially Rodriguez’ action-figure-like Atomiko and Johnny Depp portrayals. But all are excellent and funny.

Maynard is solid as always as Irma, the adult in the room, who still hasn’t given up her bowling obsession.

“Into The Beautiful North” is smart and funny, but also a moving depiction of the plight of Latino immigrants to the U.S. And as performed by this talented cast, it’s good theater as well.

The details

“Into The Beautiful North” plays through April 23, 2017 at San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Lyceum Space, 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown.

Wednesday at 7 p.m.; Thursday and Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 8 pm; Saturday, April 15 at 2 pm; Saturday, April 22 at 4 pm; Sunday, Apr. 9 and 23 at 2 pm; Sunday, Apr. 16 at 7 pm

Tickets: (619) 544-1000 or www.sdrep.org