Drawing an audiencen of both young and old, “The Still Life Cabaret,” a Dia de los Muertos themed play, showcased for three consecutive nights at the Dance Mission Theater.
The stage decor was designed by students, featuring a colorful Dia de los Muertos backdrop. The set was complimented by subtle lighting, and a four piece band including the flute, piano, bass guitar and percussion. An altar was used as the main prop.
Most of the masks and costumes in the play were very simple, which helped to clearly capture the essence of the characters and their roles.
At the outset of the play, Carlos Baron, writer and director of the play, stood before the audience thanking them for their support while also paying dues to his granddaughter, Luna, for being an inspiration for his work.
The play began with nine child souls that set out on a journey to San Francisco. They enter the stage chanting “esta cancion de dia los muertos, esta canción es para ti,” as they hugged their dolls and continued to recite their lullaby. Along their journey, the children notice an altar with pictures of their deceased loved ones and they decide to tell their untold stories by reenactment.
As their imaginations runs wild, they break out into a dance.
The choreography was inspired by traditional African dance, which offered moments of intense passion. Within the same scene, the legendary character, La Llorona, played by local artist Silvia Parra, made a guest appearance. She weeps over the issues that plague the Mission District such as immigration, displacement, and gentrification.
Parra then performed an opera piece that was sung beautifully, marking the climax of the play.
The last scene took an unexpected turn as the focus changed from recognizing the dead to highlighting the presence of “hipsters” in the Mission District and the negative impact they have on the community.
The message behind the scene seemed to be relevant, but the way it was incorporated into the play brought an element of confusion to the story line.
The play ended with the children returning back to the stage to make their journey home. They closed with a final song “The Children Say Goodbye” written by Baron himself.
The cast consisted of students from the Theatre Arts and Latino/a Studies Department at San Francisco State University. They rehearsed for two months—-and this was reflected in their excellent performance.
Although there were some scenes that broke the cohesiveness of the storyline, Baron truly put together an amazing show with smooth transitions and a script that seamlessly combined comedy, social activism, and inspiration.
“I wanted them to laugh and cry, but I wanted it to be healing too,” said Baron.