Dulcey Amargo: 'Ultima' a substantive play

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By Lupita Gonzales


As I mentioned in a column a while back, I have sworn off sitting too long in front of the TV or the computer screen, but there are some sites I receive online that I follow for the fun of it. One of those is the Astrology  Astro Slam, which often puts me in my place.


A couple of weeks ago, the slam told me that most people are boring, including me, and that I should do something exciting, like attending a play, or some such. 


Voila! It just so happened that I’d seen a few announcements promoting the stage production Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya, showing at Ilfeld Auditorium, so I hied myself to the HU campus to buy a ticket. I was ready to stop being so boring.


Of course I did my homework, digging out my old copy of the novel by the same name, published in 1972. The tattered pages showed the wear and tear of having been used in my high school classes — required reading for my students during the ‘90s. An acquaintance, hearing of my new-found fervor and intent of becoming less boring, provided me with a Spanish language rendition, Bendíceme, Ultima, first published in 1994 ... After my review activity, I was now armed and ready.


That evening, I joined the anxious crowd lined up outside Ilfeld. There was a double line, and I felt smug at having my ticket in hand but still had to wait until the doors opened to admit us. Once inside, I went down a side aisle to the third row, happy to get an aisle seat. Looking around, I saw that the auditorium was filling up rapidly, both tiers.

It was an overflow crowd. Frankly, the performance was riveting- fast-moving, and very true to the novel. I detected political overtones re: anti-war sentiments ... perhaps warranted, but in my mind, not so true to the original piece; but then, this was a stage adaptation and the playwright certainly can employ poetic license.


Tony the boy and Ultima were superbly enacted, and the other characters followed suit. The original novel’s Marez/Luna historical/cultural juxtapositions were economically but believably represented. The addition of music, choreography and visual backdrop images artfully created even more substance to the presentation.

I admit to still being entranced by the Golden Carp image — both on a nature and on a spiritual level, something which struck me when I first read Anaya’s novel. 


The author, in his novel as well as in the stage interpretation so well depicted the deep cultural conflicts of the people of the northern llanos/vegas as well as superbly dealing with the ever-present issue of change.


If you missed this fine piece, you might consider traveling to see it as it continues its run across the state. 


The performance is being presented by the Vortex Theater and the National Hispanic Cultural Center and supported in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, and the National Endowment for the Arts. 


Future showings will take place Nov. 6 and 7, NNMC at Española; Nov, 12 through 14, National Hispanic Cultural Center at Albuquerque; and Nov. 19, WNMU Fine Arts Center at Silver City.


Lupita Gonzales is an educator and member of the Optic Editorial Board. She may be reached at lupitagonzales2002@yahoo.com. By Lupita Gonzales