“This Land,” by playwright Evangeline Ordaz, is truly an LA story. It’s currently running at the Company of Angels Theater in Los Angeles (located smack on the grounds of USC Medical Center) until Nov. 13.
It accomplishes what many plays have tried, but failed to do. “This Land” has put an accurate life experience of native Angelenos and the generations of families raised here onstage.
As the story unfolds, each successive generation grapples with their claim to the land on which they live.
“This Land” takes place through the years; 1843, 1848, 1949, 1965, 1992, on what is now a residential street in Watts. But, while this story is set in the community of Watts, there are many threads that many can relate to in many L.A. communities.
In fact, anyone from Pacoima or the Northeast San Fernando Valley can relate to living in a community that at one time was inhabited by Native American Indians, and was transitioned by a harsh history change to be occupied by generations of Anglo residents — Mexican Americans, African Americans, then newly arrived immigrants from Mexico and Central America. These diverse cultures, at various periods of time, intersect and live on the same street, most often harmoniously, although there is always that “one neighbor!”
It’s a story about people in one community who feel their community — “This Land” where they were raised — is in fact, “their land.”
The work ambitiously covers 150 years of history, told through the actors who creatively make costume changes onstage to convey the change and movement of generations of their family that pass, and are born, and fight to hold on to their home and history.
At the center of the play is the push and pull of those encouraging residents to move and gentrifying neighborhoods.
Through the shared experience of coming from the same community, there is both love and pain with family members encouraging other family members to leave for an area viewed as “better.”
It’s a story about connection and being rooted to a community in Los Angeles that is viewed as who they are. It’s a refreshing play that doesn’t reinforce the incorrect notion that LA is made up of people who are all “transplants” but is made up of communities where people for generations call home.
It’s a beautiful play, well acted and directed and worth seeing, even twice!
Directed by Company of Angels artistic director, Armando Molina, This Land runs until November 13, at Company of Angels, Los Angeles’ oldest professional theater, located 1350 San Pablo St., in Los Angeles. For more information, visit www.companyofangels.org.