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“Mani Desti, que? What’s that?” – Manifest Destinitis, a wonderfully funny work of satire

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if a telenovela was filmed in front of a live studio audience? If so, then you’re in luck because Manifest Destinitis answers that question.

The play is directed by Michael Mufson and written by Herbert Siquenza. In a previous interview with The Telescope, Mufson explained how the play is a reinvention of a classic Molière play, The Imaginary Invalid.

The play is set in Alta California, between 1848 and 1850, and the events happen throughout a weekend. The play is filled with stories of love triangles, an arranged marriage, a father who’s convinced he’s dying, and a plot to steal the family inheritance. Manifest Destinitis uses satire and comedy to critique something more students are speaking up about, the harms of colonialism.

The play arrives at Palomar as the #LandBack movement grows and more people speak against ongoing colonialism. The play’s message is relatable to students today, leading them to think critically about the history being told and who gets to tell that history. Though all of this is done through comedy, the message is easy to digest as the play continues.

Don Aragon, played by Rueben Renteria Jr., is a hypochondriac taken advantage of by his doctor. The constant doctor visits and high medical bills became the norm after his first wife passed away. However, these continuous doctor visits ended after Don Aragon started an argument over the cost of his treatments. This leads Don Aragon to devise a plan to have one of his daughters marry a neighboring ranchero’s son, who had just become a doctor.

Don Aragon’s Manifest Destinitis symptoms are nonsensical, which provides the audience with plenty of jokes and references to laugh at. In his dreams, Aragon is plagued by an orange man with tiny hands and park rangers kicking him off his property. During the day, he’s plagued with outbursts that leave him shouting words like “PILATES!” or “STARBUCKS!” only to be followed by the rest of the family asking him what he’s talking about.

However, the highlight of the play is Tonia. Tonia, played by Johnny Sanchez, is an indigenous woman and servant of the house. Not only is she the perfect comic relief of the play, but she’s also the most sensible member of the household. The dynamic created between Tonia and Don Aragon, as they argued back and forth while she threatened him with brooms and chanclas, was an excellent way to deliver some typically controversial topics.

Tonia is not the only one in the family driving Don Aragon crazy. Angelica and Luisa, played by Ashely Amador, are his daughters and are set on breaking the traditions of their small Spaniard home. Angelica secretly loves someone else, so she refuses to marry the doctor Don Aragon has set up for her. Luisa would instead dress masculinely, read feminist literature, challenge machismo culture, and break down the patriarchal system rather than marry a man.

Tonia, Angelica, and Luisa are not the only causes of Don Aragon’s headaches. He also struggles with his new wife, Belen, played by Taryn Faurot, who loves to spend all his money on her lavish lifestyle. Don Aragon doesn’t know that she’s also in a relationship with another man, Robert McDonald/Señor Mayo, and the two are plotting to take the land and money away from him.

All of these factors create the story that is Manifest Destinitis. The plot elements, characters, and perfectly used satire will leave the audience laughing so hard they might cry.

While all the actors did a fantastic job in the play, Johnny Sanchez (Tonia) and Ashley Amador (Angelica and Luisa) did an incredible job delivering the script’s drama, jokes, and commentary. Ruben Renteria Jr (Dor Aragon) also did an excellent job as an oblivious father obsessed with his health and the fear of the gringos taking his land.

The set design also brought the audience into the play, allowing attendees to really feel as if they were in Aragon’s living room while watching the family drama play out. The play is also shown in the Studio Theater rather than the Howard Bubrek Theatre, which has a smaller seating area. The smaller audience and the closeness between the stage and the seats added to the intimate setting, leading those attending the play to care for the characters on a deeper level.

Overall, the play was fantastic. The message was clear, the comedy was easy to understand, and the characters were interesting and relatable.

The play will continue showings through Dec.

For more information and tickets for the play, visit Palomar Performing Arts.

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