The subject of La Ruta is clearly one that more people need to be aware of–not just the murders and sexual assault of these young women, but also the harsh working environment in which many were underpaid and overworked. Gomez' decision to not have a through timeline in the piece adds mystery to the play and he has done a fairly good job of writing the characters realistically as well as ensuring they are unique individuals. However, he has positioned the plot as if it is a mystery that will be resolved, with projected dates and times at the beginning of each scene that state where each one falls in relationship to Brenda's disappearance, but there are so many loose ends and unanswered questions that it seems like a half-baked drama. The jumps in time also sometimes slow down the forward momentum of the play.
Fortunately, the cast for this production, under Chris Chávez' astute direction, is superb. Dolores E. Mendoza is exceptional as the quiet yet powerful Yolanda. Mendoza's ability to elicit the realistic combination of rage, loneliness, and survivor's guilt is heartbreakingly perceptive, especially in the painful way in which Yolanda states that she continually hopes this is a nightmare that she will wake up from. Estrella Paloma Parra is superb as Marisela, who uses her pain and suffering as fuel to protest not just for her murdered daughter but for all of the missing women.
Amanda Lopez-Castillo is fierce and strong as Ivonne, and Maria Cruz is bright and innocent as Brenda. Tiffany Valenzuela has a beautiful singing voice and expert guitar playing abilities which are used for the half dozen songs that are interspersed throughout the show. Alexandra "Sandy" Leon is good as a factory worker who suffers the consequences for speaking out.
The set design by Tianna Torrilhon-Wood provides a blank canvas for the effective media design by Cné Serrano to play out on. Shelly Trujillo's costumes are realistic and the lighting design from Ashley Hohnstein works extremely well, especially for the eerily dim scenes set at night. The fight choreography by Alex Kass is natural and shocking.
La Ruta is a fairly powerful drama that depicts the pervasive terror faced by the female maquila workers in Juárez and the impact their disappearances have on their family members. While the play isn't entirely successful, the cast in Stray Cat's production excel.