In a village in Central America, Miguel’s big mouth only gets him into trouble with his parents and aunt Cecilia but when soldiers come to enforce the regime and take his parents, Miguel’s voice gets scared and flees. The play then follows Miguel’s journey to recapture his words and with them, his ability to fight back against the rich man.
Coming from a school barely two miles from the Mexican border, the production is soaked in Central and South American traditions. Miguel’s home is never identified as this or that country, instead pointing to a wealth of conflicts across the continent, allowing the show to draw on various cultures and costumes to create their brightly coloured display. The use of props is fantastic and inventive, ranging from the manipulation of simple sticks to create courtrooms and maize fields to huge puppets that dominate the stage. As if to match, the style of performance moves from mime, to near-naturalism, to moments of highly impressive physical theatre from such a young group.
Two performances stand out. Jessica Verastigui as Miguel has a watchability and an irrepressible charisma that allow her to truly carry the play. Her performance is even more impressive when one considers that for the greater part of the show she cannot speak – her range of physical and facial expression is key to the success of the production. Andres Regalado’s role as La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, is a further highlight. Regalado plays a woman with good humour and dignity, while pulling off comic timing that would make Joan Rivers smirk. His commitment to the role is total and overwhelming, again an amazing performance to see in such a young actor.
All of the cast are compelling to watch and cover multiple roles with ease – Kathryn Carroll must be commended for the vocal and physical control she displays in bringing three very different characters to the stage. Visually arresting and beautifully contextualised by these Texan students, this story is perfect family viewing and a joy to see. The passion on display in J. W. Nixon High School’s ¡Bocon! makes it an obvious example for other school-age and American High School Theatre Festival productions to follow.