Family, faith and a mysterious face are at play this weekend at Stars Playhouse with the new show "Our Lady of the Tortilla."
An often volatile family, the Cruzes are in for a wild weekend when youngest son Nelson (Jesse Magdaleno) brings home his WASP-y girlfriend, Beverly (Carlie Wood).
As a newcomer, Beverly helps bring viewers into this faith-filled Hispanic household, director Salvador Vidaurri said.
"I think that particular character is the audience’s point of view, the one on the outside looking in."
Viduarri said he connected with Nelson, who experiences cultural shame, hiding religious relics in the Cruz home and downplaying other faith-driven reactions.
"His journey was all too familiar to me. ... It reminded me how growing up that I carried that same sense of shame about the way in which I was brought up in a Catholic Mexican-American household."
He never had such a dramatic experience as the play since those feelings were something he "learned to grapple with a lot earlier on."
Along with family, "Our Lady" is a story of faith, most evident with Nelson's old tía, Dahlia (Nikki Nieto), who believes she saw the face of the Holy Virgin in a tortilla.
Spreading the news, believers and reporters camp out on the Cruz family's lawn hoping for more miracles.
"She is surrounded by this really chaotic family, and she has a hint of that chaotic energy, but she sticks to her faith," the director said.
Viduarri said he initially scoffed at the woman's blind faith but later came to a greater understanding.
"As we rehearsed, I really admired this character for her resilience, how the trials only strengthened her resolve."
The discussion of faith continues in a moment between Dahlia and her sister, Dolores (Cristina Goyenche), who offer the opposing views of being at odds with God on what you want and understanding that God can teach you how to accept things as they are.
"In the end, neither one of them backs down from where they stand. It ends pretty heated but both of their convictions remain based on their separate and unique experiences. It's incredibly powerful."
As a first-time director, Viduarri was thrilled with the cast he had, which also includes TJ Sandoval and Jacob Cota.
When scheduling issues made rehearsals a challenge, the actors stepped up reading other parts so their co-stars could get the play on its feet.
"I really feel like I lucked out with the cast that we got. They're making really good choices and down for anything and everything."
Viduarri hopes audiences enjoy the show and perhaps walk away with some empathy, understanding how one's experiences may color their relationships even in subtle ways.
"Maybe it sheds a little bit more light on a stranger they meet on the street or a friend that they haven't spoken to in a while."
Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.