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Photograph: courtesy of Prop ThtrIrene Patiño in Arizona, No Roosters in the Desert at Prop Thtr

Arizona, No Roosters in the Desert | Theater review

Kara Hartzler’s interview-based depiction of immigrant women crossing into the U.S. is equal parts tragic and magic.

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Arizona was derived from a series of interviews with immigrant women deported while crossing into the U.S. Led by Marcela (Mari Stratton), their guide, the four women trek across the desert, at one point jokingly comparing themselves to The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about this sisterhood, however; Tucson playwright Hartzler depicts the strained relationships of women from varied class and racial backgrounds, forced together by circumstance, ultimately self-centered in their pursuit of a better life. “What do you think about while you walk?” one asks. “I think about Moses and the Israelites crossing the desert,” Marcela answers. Later, she admits that God wasn’t there at all, not in this desert. “I didn’t think it would be so easy,” she tells Lupe (Jazmin Corona), after leaving a wounded member for dead.

The plot is less compelling than what’s revealed via the counterpoint of various monologues. Luisa (Irene Patiño), a young indigenous woman, tells allegorical stories. Saracho’s careful direction heightens the magical playfulness of these tales; foregrounded by Stephanie Diaz’s expert puppetry, these fables contain the production’s transcendent moments. This lightness contrasts with the often excruciating reality-based testimony—Lupe explaining to a border officer why she made this dangerous trek, or conveying her longing for the children she left behind. Hartzler is careful not to make these women heroes; rather, each has been forced to make choices that most of us have the privilege never to even consider. The play is ultimately a powerful testimony to these many lives, and the tragic consequences of an impossible situation.

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