REVIEW by Willard Manus

Luis Alfaro's ELECTRICIDAD, now in its West Coast premiere at the Mark Taper Forum, is an updated, Latino version of Sophocles' Electra. As directed by Lisa Peterson, the play's style is broad and cartoonish, a mixture of Zoot Suit and West Side Story. Alfaro's strong suit is his use of Spanglish, which, in the context of familial revenge and murder, comes off as anachronistic but hilarious, particularly when delivered by the production's Greek chorus, three broom-wielding, wise-cracking maids (Denise Blasor, Catalina Maynard and Wilma Bonet).

Zilah Mendoza plays Electra as a woman driven to near-lunacy by hatred for her mother Clemencia (Bertila Damas), whom she blames for the death of her father, once the cholo gangster-king of the barrio. More believable and sympathetic is her sister La Ifi (Ifigenia)--played winningly by Elisa Bocanegra--who brings street-smarts and common sense to the table. The weakest-drawn character is Orestes (Justin Huen), the younger brother who returns from exile (Las Vegas!) and is driven to avenge his father's death by committing matricide. Alfaro tries to make an important statement about the sorry state of the gang-run, drug-infested barrio today, but his good intentions are undermined by comic-strip writing and direction.

At the Taper, 135 N. Grand Ave. Call (213) 628-2772 or visit MarkTaperForum.org