Turquoise and Obisidian

T&O poster small
Wheels within wheels. Stories within stories. The mystery and majesty of Mexico. The notion that captures the imagination and will not let go. Old gods. Hidden secrets. Terror. Love. And the universe that swirls in the bottom of a glass.
Turquoise and Obsidian is a three-act drama that examines the human need for transcendent experience and the destructive effects of repressing that need, whether through an individual’s psychological dilemma or through the actions of society and the state. A literature professor (Zachary) who is an expert on author MalcolmLowry, who wrote the novel Under the Volcano, becomes obsessed with the idea that he is to die in Cuernavaca on the Day of the Dead, as did the Consul, the protagonist of Lowry’s novel. Zachary’s wife, Althea, comes to Cuernavaca to talk her husband home, only to be drawn into a Mexican cultural-political conflict involving an hitherto unknown Aztec hallucinogen which allows its takers to experience a kind of telepathy. Althea’s dilemma is whether to share this discovery with the rest of the world or use it to save her husband. The first act introduces Zachary’s conflict. The second act introduces Althea’s conflict and the hallucinogen plot line, and the third act merges the two.

The play deals with issues such as personal and national identity, metaphysics, psychological disturbance, politics, religion, pros and cons of altered states of consciousness, alcoholism, infidelity, and self-sacrifice, but ultimately it is a play about the agony and redemptive power of love.

cantinaTurquoise and Obsidian is a massive work, both in length and depth, encompassing five cultures (American, Irish, Mexican Metizo, Mexican indigenous, and ancient Aztec) and three languages (English, Spanish, and Nahautl), and drawing from a vast array of literary, historical, political, religious, ethnobotanical, and anthropological sources to tell the story of a group of individualistic characters drawn together by a confluence of personal and cultural forces.

Bajo El VolcanOn the surface, it is a story about an American botanist and an Irish literature professor, in Mexico and far from home, struggling to reconcile a marriage broken by alcoholism and infidelity, while, on soft feet, a shadow revolution burns around them.

Underneath, through an entwining of conventional narrative and magical realism, the play contains stories within stories, constructed in overlapping patterns that mirror the couple’s struggle to regain their faith in one another.  This Russian doll structure expands to encompass the tension between an individual’s quest for self-discovery and one’s dependence on family, culture, history, and, ultimately, fate.

From Turquoise and Obsidian

  • September 2003, Theatre Noir, Portland, Oregon; staged reading.
  • October 1994, LitEruption Book Fair, Portland, Oregon; staged reading (excerpt).
Research for this work was the recipient of the inaugural Portland Civic Theatre Guild Fellowship, 1997.

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