The women in the Garcia family have great voices, major brains, and good looks. Their only problem? They just can't lie. To husbands, priests, or to each other. That cursed gift brings plenty of trouble in Evelina Fernández’s “Faith: Part I of A Mexican Trilogy,” now at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. The final installment of this bittersweet immigrant epic with music takes us back to World War II, when Rosie the Riveter wasn’t the only one discovering her power tools.
After fleeing Zapata’s socialist revolution in the ‘teens, Esperanza (Lucy Rodriguez) and Silvestre (Sal Lopez) have settled in an Arizona mining town to raise three daughters: rebellious Faith (Esperanza America), romantic Charity (Alexis de la Rocha) and tattletale Elena (Olivia Delgado). Somber Esperanza runs a tight ship, but she can’t keep her girls from the neighborhood boys (Matias Ponce and Xavi Moreno) or the lure of a recording contract with a local producer (Geoffrey Rivas). Even Esperanza’s own forbidden desire will come back to haunt her.
The eerie sense that we are driven by ghosts (of our ancestors or what we deny in ourselves) finds lyrical expression in Cameron Mock’s superb scenic and lighting design. The Garcia home is an abstracted wood-slatted shelter, a sort of Dust Bowl House of Bernardo Alba. The lighting shifts restlessly like the women’s quicksilver moods. (America’s combative energies make her an irresistible force to Rodriguez’s immovable object.)
The play has its problems. Plot turns announce themselves early on. Expository wheels creak loudly, and character development can be slim. But what “Faith” has going for it—like the other two installments—is the sense of an emotional undertow beneath its often predictable story. Elegantly directed by José Luis Valenzuela, the trilogy understands the deepest changes of heart are best expressed in melody. Fernández must be doing something right, because when her characters break into song, you know exactly how they feel.
“Faith: Part I of A Mexican Trilogy” Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 11. $34. Contact: 866-811-4111 or www.thelatc.org Running time: 2 hours.