The cast of The Sun Serpent.
Photo by Heather Hill
For all the adventure that happens in The Sun Serpent, there is a definite pall that spreads over the show. After all, it is about the end of native Central and South American cultures that fell in the wake of the Spanish Conquistador in the early 16th century.
All of these undercurrents make the show, now playing at Mixed Blood Theatre, an engaging and thrilling ride. The colorful and vibrant production tells a complex and epic tale using only three actors and plenty of innovative guile.
While the bigger stories of Cortes, Moctezuma, and the conquest of the Aztec nation play out, the real focus in Jose Cruz Gonzalez's script is a family far from the heart of the empire. Tlememe (Andres Alcala) is a younger boy living with brother Anahuac (Adrian Hernandez) and grandmother Anci (Andrea Morales). Their family has been nearly destroyed by the expansion of the Aztecs, so there is no love lost for the emperor that they must send daily tributes of fish to in the far away capital city.
The arrival of the Spaniards changes all of this. Anahuac signs on to join the newcomers in their march on the Aztecs. After he leaves, their village is destroyed and Anci is killed by the Conquistadors, leading Tlememe to take a journey to find and "save" his brother.
There are plenty of adventures along the way, as our young hero finds allies on the road, explores his budding skills as an artist and storyteller, and finds the destruction wrought by the invaders.
The multiple characters played by each actor adds an intriguing depth to the story. Alcala also plays Moctezuma, while Hernandez is Cortes. The cross-purposes of those two leaders also plays out when the brothers finally meet again near the play's climax.
The show's storytelling also includes masks, puppets and projections, all of which work to build a full and complex world for the action. Gonzalez's script is fast-paced, which director Rachel Bowditch builds on to give the show a tremendous sense of energy.
The Sun Serpent isn't a history lesson, but there's plenty to learn here about the original cultures of the continent and about a pair of characters on two very different paths.
IF YOU GO
The Sun Serpent
Through March 22
Mixed Blood Theatre
1501 S. Fourth St., Minneapolis
Free, first-come first-served at the door; $20 to reserve
For tickets and more information, call 612.338.6131 or visit online.