Though it has been performed in various cities throughout both the United States and Mexico, Raul Garza’s "Confessions of a Mexpatriate" is a play that is extremely at home in Austin.
The one-man show tells the story of Samuel, a Mexican-American tech industry worker who takes a long vacation to Mexico in order to connect to his cultural roots. The joys of that story come out in the unexpected comparisons between his corporate life in America and the people and places he encounters in Mexico. The complexities of these contrasts strike close to home in Austin, a city defined in part by a long-term Latinx culture that has been adopted and co-opted by an increasingly white populace.
This should be no surprise, though, given that Garza is an Austin-based playwright; the show received its premiere in 2013 in a Teatro Vivo production at Salvage Vanguard Theater. The latest staging is at Hyde Park Theater, directed by Ken Webster and featuring Mical Trejo as Samuel, and the play is if anything more relevant in a post-Trump world than it was five years ago.
"Confessions of a Mexpatriate" is most definitely not a piece of agitprop. Though such plays have understandably become vital and necessary of late, exploring the history and meaning of Mexican-American contributions to our shared culture, "Confessions" is much more a character study of one particular Mexican-American trying to find the balance between those two sides of himself.
It is also, as performed by Trejo, extremely warm, witty and whimsical. Trejo never fails to find the humor buried within Garza’s words, bringing us along on Samuel’s journey as invisible companions who sometimes make important connections and realizations about his life even before he does. Webster knows that Trejo is the draw here and keeps the production minimalist, with a set from Mark Pickell that is cleanly divided between memories of the United States and Mexico, scene- and mood-setting lights from Don Day and sound design from Robert. S. Fisher that help to provide transitions between anecdotes.
By the end of the play, what at first seems to be a series of disconnected stories about Samuel’s travels through various Mexican cities comes to embody a larger story of cultural expectations both reified and denied, and an acceptance of the common stressors, disappointments and glories that can be found in both countries. Through Samuel, we see a charming bridging of cultural gaps that we so badly need in today’s world, and get quite a few laughs along the way.