Review: El Cielo Nuestro . . . ¡Que Se Va A Caer!
by Michael Meigs

Proyecto Teatro's imaginative production telling of an environmentally conscious "Chicken Little"-type story is a delight. It runs again this weekend at the Dougherty Arts Center.

The clever costumes alone are worth the modest price of admission to this all-Spanish-language frolic, where adults pay $8 and the youngest children only $2. Director Luis Ordaz and actor Guicha Gutiérrez have a wild sense of shape, color and transformation that the images here can suggest only approximately.

The company's physical language in creating these characters, mostly birds, is remarkable. Preening, puffing, quivering and sailing across the stage, they create a play that approaches the status of a talking ballet. 


Wendy Espinosa as La Hada (ALT photo)


The glimmering, glistening, be-winged and emphatically well-spoken Hada (Fairy) played by Wendy Espinosa welcomes the audience, coaches the children and comments on the action throughout. As in the familiar fairy tale we meet a progressive accumulation of barnyard and woodland creatures with whimsically rhyming names, beginning with Pollito Fito (the chick, played by Jesús Garcia).



Puffy little clouds bounce down from overhead spaces, each time prompting discussion and a group decision to warn everyone of the dangers. Our accumulating cast of characters bounces into a simple four-line musical chant and dance

El cielo se va a caer, todos tienen que saber (bis) 
Vamos rápido y de prisa, a llevarles la noticia,
Vamos rápido y de prisa, ¡todos tiene que saber!

 The sky is falling, everyone needs to know (twice)
Let's go, quickly and in a hurry, to give them the news,
Let's go, quickly and in a hurry, everyone needs to know!


Ana Luisa Esperón-Moody, Jesús Garcia, Guicha Gutiérrez, Luis Ordaz (ALT photo)

The words are simple, the tune is catchy, and the song & dance come at you again and again; a week later, I've found myself humming them, tempted to go into a little funky chicken shuffle.

The bouncy little band grows with the addition of Gallina Fina (the hen, Guicha Gutiérrez), Gallo Malayo (the rooster, director Luis Ordaz), Pata Hojalata (the duck, Erika Santana), Gansa Garbanza (the goose, Ana Luisa Esperón-Moody), the arch-bureaucratic cavalier Pavo Centavo (the turkey, Jorge Gonzalez) and the two Keystone Kops piggy guards (Guillermo Garza and Lety Cabañas). As in the English version, the names contain catchy, funny and sometimes nonsensical rhymes (the duck is linked with a tin can, the goose with a chick-pea, and the wicked turkey with money).

Erika Santana as Pato Hojalata (ALT photo)
Jorge Gonzalez as Pavo Centavo (ALT photo)

Pavo Centavo is the authority figure to whom our cheerfully frantic crowd turns. His response to their alarm is that they'll just have to pay for the clean-up. They do so, each contributing in kind, and Pavo waddles away with the swag. He enlists the duck in her delicious purple costume and floppy hat to crank away on an exercise bike to generate power to keep those factory chimneys smoking, so that he can keep taxing the common folks. Eventually they catch on to his scheme and put him out of business, declaring that each one of us must be responsible for keeping the sky and the rest of the environment clean.

The big shambling piggies are taken prisoner as well, but they plead ignorance and poverty. Our animal characters are divided: prosecute them or pardon them? In an exciting moment of alternating chants (¡prosíguenlos! . . . ¡perdónenlos!) the Fairy turns to the audience for judgment. Last Sunday afternoon the young boy in the middle of the front row authoritatively gave voice to mercy: ¡perdónenlos!    We all agreed.

My only difficulty with the show was the cast's use of "cartoon voices." You know -- distorted, funny vocalization so often used in Looney Tunes and Cartoon Network. Vocal tricks, swoops, and distortions have a rich tradition -- in the American tradition we think, at a minimum, of the stylization of the genius Mel Blanc. Kids adore those voices, in part because they make "grown-ups" and otherwise self-important figures sound so ridiculous. As a non-native speaker. I can following nearly everything said in a serious round-table discussion in Spanish, but ¡Dios mío! in cartoon land I am lucky to score half of that. But not to worry -- pierden cuidado -- for in the audience at El Cielo Nuestro . . . ¡Que Se Va A Caer! you can get by just fine with only the summary that I've given you here.

Proyecto Teatro is inspired, but I've had some difficulty tracking them down. is still carrying a not-very-informative announcement of a project Serenidad y Paciencia scheduled May to October at Ruta Maya coffee house but not mentioned on the Ruta Maya website.  

I now see that Proyecto's own website describes, instead, a five-part Mexican play about "Batman's grandma" that was presented from April to August at Ruta Maya, the third Sunday of each month.

The group conducts acting workshops in Spanish, and the next one runs from October 3 through December 19. They offer classes at three levels of proficiency. Judging from this production, participants are likely to have a great time and to learn a lot.



Click to view program of El Cielo Nuestro. . . . by Proyecto Teatro


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El Cielo Nuestro . . . ¡Que Se Va A Caer!
by adapted by Proyecto Teatro
Proyecto Teatro

August 28 - September 06, 2009
Dougherty Arts Center
1110 Barton Springs Road
Austin, TX, 78704