By Dena Burroughs  --  November 11, 2016

THEATER - MARIELA IN THE DESERT now at CASA 0101 in Boyle Heights

 MARIELA IN THE DESERT, written by Karen Zacarias and directed by Robert Beltran, is now performing at CASA 0101 Theater in Boyle Heights.

This is the story of a family in the northern Mexican desert in 1950 trying to balance the ups and downs of life with its artistic needs and impulses. Mariela and Jose Salvatierra were once the golden couple of Mexican art. Together they built a family and an artist colony that hosted the likes of Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, and Rufino Tamayo. But now their daughter has grown up and moved away, their friends are too far away and famous to call, and artistic inspiration has been crushed by isolation and lies. However, life and art always go on.

This production of MARIELA IN THE DESERT marks the birth of the Angel City Theater Ensemble (ACTE). This is a group of professional actors pooling together to serve the Latino community.  “It is our dream,” says Vance Valencia, “to fill a severe void in Latin American communities in Boyle Heights and beyond and to bring the Canon of Classic American and World Theater to them.” Valencia, who plays Jose in MARIELA IN THE DESERT, is the founder of ACTE, in collaboration with Daniel E. Mora, Denise Blasor, and Randy Vasquez. Blasor and Vasquez are also part of MARIELA IN THE DESERT, playing Oliva Salvatierra and Professor Adam Lovitz respectively. The cast is complete with Rachel Gonzalez (Mariela) and Vannessa Vasquez (Blanca). Every actor in this play is interesting and engaging, but I give special props to Blasor for her skillful way to infuse humor into her character, and to Gonzalez for a performance that projects believable emotion.

This play is worth seeing. It presents a Mexican family in a way that is not often seen on stage or TV. It talks about the choices women must make in life, the pain of loss, and the possibility of re-uniting with one’s true calling. It’s inspiring.

MARIELA IN THE DESERT will perform through Dec. 11 (except on Thanksgiving weekend). CASA 0101 is located at 2012 East First St in Boyle Heights 90033. Tickets are $25 for general admission; $20 for students and seniors; $15 for Boyle Heights residents. The show is recommended for mature audiences, and is 120 minutes long, with an intermission. More information and tickets at 

Jacob Betts (l.), Sarah Beth Comfort, Vanessa Boss, Chris LeVan - Credit Sherry Lee