Preview Night: Nuevo California debuts at Studio Theatre

Aidan Marchetti performs as Pope Felipe in "Nuevo California" by Bernardo Solano and Allan Havis onstage in Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s Studio Theatre Oct. 27 through Nov. 6, 2016. (Gerry Goodstein/Connecticut Repertory Theatre)

In the midst of this year’s presidential election, a play about a wall along the border of the United States and Mexico seems overly political. Touching on issues of race, culture and familial strife, Nuevo California explores sensitive social themes. Nuevo follows the story of Pope Felipe (played by Aidan Marchetti), a young, radically liberal pope who wants to help facilitate the process of combining San Diego, Calif. and Tijuana, Mexico into a new state, Nuevo California.

“Marchetti was great, he really showcased his range having to meld to different characters throughout the play,” said Liam Linders, a third semester biological science major.

The Studio theatre was full despite the surprise snow showers on Thursday night for the preview showing. An audience varied greatly in age of students and theatre patrons alike, filled in the seats in front of the stage as the fog machines were tested and lights were adjusted against the enormous wall, in preparation for the last rehearsal and first run of Director Richard Ruiz’s Nuevo California.

Nuevo California is set in the future, where a massive earthquake has shattered the coastline of California and Mexico. The 8.7 earthquake splits pieces of both countries along the San Andreas Fault line, forming a new landmass and swallowing up Los Angeles in the process. The new landmass is home to a diverse group of people: the white California Americans, Chinese immigrants, Native Americans and Central Americans. The play depicts all these different people, full of tension in a time of civil and political unrest that mirror many themes that can be found in the politics of the present.

We see numerous and varying perspectives of how the quake and the wall affected the people. All of this is narrated by an anchorwoman that is often at the wall giving structure and a chapter like closing and recap to every scene, as well as a third party view within the play of the events and strife of the characters.

Nuevo California asks the question: What would happen if a huge earthquake wiped L.A. off the map, prompting the United States and Mexico to rebuild San Diego and Tijuana as one state?

With division, both political and physical, being a central theme, most of the scenes were set at the foot of the great wall, which spanned the length of the stage, adorned with futuristic lights and rust from the ocean spray. Set designer Brett Calvo said, “We talked a lot about the play and how to bring meaning to a diverse amount of scenes without detracting from the theme. The wall was built with the intention of being the main antagonist, being that there was no clear antagonist amongst the characters. So the wall had to be neutral enough to work with a variety of scenes but at the same time remain central to the play.”

The preview went off without a hitch. The audience met the closing scene with a thunderous applause as the actors took the stage in a final bow. “If you are on the fence about coming to see Nuevo California, you should definitely come.” Concluded Linders.

Nuevo California is running now through Nov. 6 at the Studio Theatre, part of the Connecticut Repertory Theatre on the UConn campus. Tickets are $30 for adults, $25 for seniors and $7 for students and children. For more information visit crt.uconn.edu.


Dan Wood is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at daniel.wood@uconn.edu