L-R, Adrian Encinas, Kat McIntosh, Jonathan Heras and David Grijalva in Borderlands Theater’s “A Tucson Pastorela.”

The angels and devils rock in Borderlands Theater’s “A Tucson Pastorela.”

Literally rock, singing songs that include riffs on AC/DC numbers and songs from the play “Grease.”

But more than that, they infused the story with an energy and pace that kept it clipping along.

About that story: Pastorelas are a five-century-old tradition in Mexico; they are created and performed in villages and towns across the country. The core tale is the same in each — shepherds are traveling to Bethlehem to pay homage to the new born baby Jesus but devils want to tempt them away, and angels help fight the temptations.

But in every place that has a pastorela, the script is different. In rhyme, they mix in their politics, pop culture, and local and national figures who need a bit of spoofing.

One gentlemen was quite upset after Thursday’s opening night — “It was too political,” he told an usher. “Not what I was expecting.”

So, you’ve been forewarned that Milta Ortiz, who penned the script for Borderlands, did what they do across Mexico: made it speak to the events of the year that are relevant to Tucsonans.

But back to those angels and devils. Jonathan Heras’ Lucifer was deliciously evil and quite funny as he took on the personas of Trump with tiny hands, Putin, bare-chested and riding on a horse (a wildly clever puppet) and Jeff Sessions with over-sized ears.

His sidekick, Satan, was just as funny and over-the-top in David Grijalva’s hands. And speaking of over-the-top: Emily Pratt’s Lust (the devils had to call on one of the seven capital sins for help) was a cartoonish seductress, which was perfect.

Their angelic opponents, also good with disguises, made appearances as Colin Kaepernick, Offred from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and even Dora as Dora the Explorer. Kat McIntosh as Michael and Adrian Encinas as Gabriel, made doing good look good.

Marc Pinate directed with a visual eye — projections and masks helped transport the audience — and a graceful hand.

“A Tucson Pastorela” isn’t perfect. It doesn’t have to be. What it needs more than anything is heart and humor. And Christmas carols in Spanish because “Silent Night” sounds the holiest in that language. This production definitely has all those elements.

Contact reporter Kathleen Allen at kallen@tucson.com or 573-4128. On Twitter: @kallenStar


Kathleen has covered the arts for the Star for 20 years. Previously, she covered business, news and features for the Tucson Citizen. A near-native of Tucson, she is continually amazed about the Old Pueblo's arts scene and feels lucky to be covering it.