CalArts brings the Reality of the Mexican Drug Cartel to REDCAT with Timboctou

By Angela Imperial

Staff Writer

pLAywriting in the city

Cocaine, guns & polar bears, oh my! So begins the adventure that is Timboctu, Redcat’s latest production and collaboration with Duende CalArts and the University of Guadalajara Foundation. Timboctou transcends borders and lives. This production is penned by playwright Alejandro Ricano and directed by the famously talented Martin Acosta; both gentlemen are internationally recognized for their work throughout Mexico and the United States.  Timboctou is a lurid tale of the Mexican drug cartel played out through a montage of scenes revealing a dark, seedy, and corrupt world. A world where no one is safe or protected, yet this play manages to also be funny.

Timboctou at RedCat. Photo by Steven Gunther.

With the butterfly effect set in motion, Timboctou tells the story of the exploits of two hit men, their need to survive, and the tailspin of harebrained mishaps that lead the audience on a whirlwind journey from drug use to the extinction of polar bears. The story unravels as the life of each character is poetically put on display with well-orchestrated movement pieces choreographed by the incredibly talented Ichi Balmori. Beginning with a color guard march performed impeccably by half of the cast, the story steadily increases in momentum from the first scene, and continues to unravel until the end. This is a portrayal of human beings making painful choices and the consequences that ensue.

The use of the stage and unique props showcases the training, commitment and talent of everyone involved.  The cast is a fierce mix of actors from Mexico and students from CalArts whose presence demands the audience’s attention. Each actor boldly embraces of his or her character, truly being in the moment and not holding anything back. The results? A fantastic take on the horrid reality of drugs, manipulation and a volatile life. Mario Montano Mora and Axel Garcia are entertaining and quite likable as two wandering souls taking their last adventure here on earth, an adventure documented by an old school camera transporting images of the actors on to an equally old television. Prerecorded images give a unique take on a dangerous lifestyle, showing that government officials are often no different than street thugs, sharing corrupt morals often erupting in chaos and death. Juan Parada makes an impact with his superb portrayal of Xavi, an obsessed lovesick soul out to retrieve his unfaithful lover only to be met by the wicked hand of fate.

Photo by Steven Gunther

The CalArts Center for New performance is dedicated to producing innovative works and Timboctou is indeed that and more. The CalArts students Michael Aurelio, Jeremy Kinser, Kyle Stockburger and Juan Parada went through an extensive audition process to get roles in Timboctou. The dedication they are giving to their education and training is evident in their willingness to embrace the movement and language of this piece and their characters. Timboctou is an honest look into the lives of individuals all connected through one incident. Individuals who are trapped in a desolate web of drugs and money, a web so big, they are destined to lose what little they do have.

Timboctou was made possible with the generous support from the California Community Foundation, the University of Guadalajara Foundation, and the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs. The production ends March 11, 2012. For more Infomartion, please visit REDCAT’s website at