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Spellbinding ‘Mojada’ gives ‘Medea’ a Chicago touch

Juan Francisco VillSandrDelgado star “Mojada” Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. | PHOTO BY MICHAEL BROSILOW

Juan Francisco Villa and Sandra Delgado star in “Mojada” at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater. | PHOTO BY MICHAEL BROSILOW

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Highly recommended

When: Through Aug. 11

Where: Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln


Info: (773) 871-3000;

Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, one intermission

Updated: July 24, 2013 4:39PM

This past Sunday’s New York Times Magazine featured two powerful photographs suggesting the nature of the journey taken by undocumented immigrants who travel from Mexico to the United States. In one, a dusty road is littered with the dirty clothes tossed away during the trek through the desert. In the other, hundreds of abandoned backpacks form a crazy quilt of despair.

The things left behind. The terror, the pain and the necessity to become a stranger to oneself in the process of undergoing radical change and the remaking of one’s identity. This is the price of the ticket that is demanded in order to leave one world and gain entry (whether legal or illegal) into another.

It is this shedding of one skin for another, this psychic displacement, that playwright Luis Alfaro so brilliantly makes us understand in “Mojada,” his spellbinding new play, now in a stunning world premiere at Victory Gardens Theatre under the direction of Chay Yew.

Alfaro has taken his inspiration from the ancient Greek tragedy of “Medea” by Euripides. But he has transformed that tale of exile and catastrophe into a powerhouse of modern mythmaking that now unfolds in the back yard of a shabby two-story brick building in Pilsen — one of Chicago’s port-of-entry neighborhoods for Mexican immigrants. It is a new classic — one in which the border between two worlds, and two ways of life, have never seemed more impenetrable. And one of the greatest tragedies of all in Alfaro’s story is this: Much of the greatest pain and havoc is generated as one immigrant turns against another.

In Alfaro’s story, Medea (Sandra Delgado) is a beautiful young farm girl who has followed the first and only love of her life, Jason (Juan Francisco Villa), to Chicago, bringing along their young son, Acan (Dylan M. Lainez), who they both adore, as well as Medea’s lifelong nanny and maid, Tita (Socorro Santiago), a traditional “healer.”

Terrified to leave the house, Medea, a master seamstress, works tirelessly doing piece-work at an old sewing machine, while Jason, a handsome man, full of ambition, initially finds day jobs in construction. But very soon Jason taps into his American dream by way of his boss, Armida (a deliciously viperish Sandra Marquez) who has learned how to play the game in the most cut-throat American way.

Medea is a damaged woman from the start. And the ruthless Armida, hot for the opportunistic Jason, knows just how to undermine her. But hell hath no fury like a woman scorned and broken. And Medea, whose heart and soul have been repeatedly shattered, is ready to wreak the sort of revenge that comes with humiliation and erasure. She is ready for total annihilation, and a radically different sort of flight — one Alfaro conjures with all the determination, inevitability and poetry of those ancient Greeks.

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