A Mexican vaudeville troupe traveling the fields of Southern California finds the stage to be mightier than the pen when fighting Steinbeckian injustice in "La Carpa," a fresh Mex-American Playhouse platter that pleases all the way to the last bite.

A Mexican vaudeville troupe traveling the fields of Southern California finds the stage to be mightier than the pen when fighting Steinbeckian injustice in “La Carpa,” a fresh Mex-American Playhouse platter that pleases all the way to the last bite.

Two hard-working campesinos (farm workers) escape the toil of the fields for an evening of drinking and fun. When a sheriff’s deputy (Rick Elander), in the dark, mistakes their bottle for a gun, he shoots one of the workers.

The sheriff deems it an accidental death, and Ramiro Casares (Jaime Gomez) must carry the cross of being a witness, unbeknownst to anyone.

Along comes the carpa, entertainment in the vaudeville tradition that offers escape for the campesinos. Casares goes to watch, and eventually works with the carpa, where the tragic killing comes to life on the stage, in front of the sheriff, deputy and mayor, who remains supportive of his lawmen.

With Casares’ fear yielding to frustration, Gomez gives the role the duality of weakness and strength, with strength winning out as he speaks out on the wrongful death he witnessed.

The cast is solid all the way, including Elander, Herbert Siguenza and Richard Coca in the troupe, and Karla Montana as the young woman Gomez is enamored of.

Vaudevillian scenes are stripped down just enough by production designer John Di Minico, and authenticizing whole production are director-writer Carlos Avila and co-writer Edit Villareal’s script, paced by its use of Spanglish, the mix of English and Spanish.

“La Carpa” is sure to reel in viewers tired of the bland, spiceless diet of network programming.

American Playhouse la Carpa

(Wed. (16), 9-10 p.m., PBS)

Production

Filmed in Southern California by American Playhouse in association with the Film Festival of Intl. Cinema Students and the National Latino Communications Center. Producers, Michael Zapanta, Carlos Avila; director, Avila; writers, Avila, Edit Villareal.

Crew

Camera, Costas Kitsos; editor, Gina Mittleman; production designer, John DiMinico; art director, Claude Viator; sound, Patrick and Dennis Drummond; music, Germaine Franco.

Cast

Cast: Jaime Gomez, Bryan Travis Smith, Enrique Castillo, Luis Accinelli, Richard Coca, Nicholas Coster, Danny de la Paz, Allison Elliott, Will Gotay, William Marquez, Jimmy Medina, Karla Montana, Lupe Ontiveros, Elen Sahagun, Miguel Sandoval, Bel Sandre, Herbert Siguenza, John Verea, Sam Vlahos.
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