In so go the ghosts of méxico, Mathew Paul Olmos' first installment of his trilogy about the U.S./Mexican drug wars, male characters repeatedly taunt Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso's young police chief with, "What will your husband say about this?"
That makes a point about society, sexism, and feminism — or, at least, it would if Jasso's character ever responded. Instead, the questions continually cause her to doubt herself and rely on supernatural forces to help impose her rule as señora polícia, a seemingly one-woman stand against the narcos who run Mexico.
It's a heroic story that Olmos has found, based on the true facts surrounding Marisol Valles García's appointment as police chief of Praxedis G. Guerrero in Chihuahua. The 20-year-old criminology student was the only applicant, earning the title "bravest woman in Mexico" after the three previous chiefs had quit, citing the life-threatening drug wars between two rival gangs.
It's fascinating stuff, but we hardly get to understand García as an actual person in Olmos' stage work. In fact, things are pretty drab in Undermain Theatre's production, until a slick white man (Bruce DuBose) shows up to banter with Blake Hackler's twitchy narco.
These two have such a crackling back-and-forth that it's a drag whenever García and her estranged husband (played by Jasso's real-life partner, Ivan Jasso) enter to debate family over duty. He's desperate for progeny — so desperate, in fact, that he often addresses their as-yet-conceived daughter — while she sees her work as securing safety for generations to come.
But ultimately it comes down to a ghostly car radio, which plays even though not connected to anything, and la musica, which summons the zombified former police chief (David Lugo) who's itching to dish out violent justice to the men who caused his gruesome death.
Adding this supernatural layer not only diminishes García's power, it muddies the storytelling. Though Lugo's undead makeup is convincing and his speeches terrifying (DuBose's sound design is eerie and echoing), he exists mainly to swoop in and rescue the young, hapless woman whenever she's overwhelmed. Though the subtitle for Olmos' play is a brave woman in méxico, it might as well be Zombies vs. Drug Lords. Or maybe that's the second play, coming next year to Undermain.
Undermain Theatre's so go the ghosts of méxico runs through October 8.