For more than twenty years, Luis Valdez, the most distinguished Latino playwright and director, has reserved most of his scripts for live stage productions. His two landmark published collections, Early Works and Zoot Suit and Other Plays, are only a sampling of his early master works and of the later plays that made it to the stage in the 1980s. Now, Valdez has finally opened his trunk to release print editions of revised early works and a brand new, major drama. Mummified Deer is Valdez’s mature exploration of the Yaqui Indian roots of Mexican American culture and Valdez’s own family. Returning to the format of the tent show, Valdez mines maternal psychology and Yaqui mysticism to demand that characters scale the full gamut of emotions. In this gut-wrenching piece, Mama Chu is the dominant, imposing figure who must reconcile the present with the past and unify the conflicting histories and identities of her family. Mundo Mata is the long-awaited drama of unionizing farm workers battling the agribusiness power structure in California while Mexican Americans are being sent off to battle brown-skinned enemies in Vietnam. Valdez assesses the toll that families have to pay to remain united against divisive forces. It all comes down to Reymundo, the antihero, who in the end must weigh existential and political questions. The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa, Valdez’s re-worked first play, still holds all the vision, spunk, and innovation of the young playwright. Injecting black humor into domestic drama, disembodied heads talk, mothers exchange roles with the patriarch, Pachucos banter, and Sell-Outs become the mouthpieces for an oppressed community—all characters and themes that would dominate future plays of Valdez and subsequent Chicano literature.
Literature & Fiction, Drama, United States,