Magic Theatre’s ‘Golden’ trilogy gets off to intriguing start

“Jesus lives here!” shouts a hyped-up, sweating Pastor Elias, delivering a sermon from the pulpit of a small Pentecostal church.

It’s a vibrant start to “This Golden State, Part One: Delano,” Luis Alfaro’s first installment of a world-premiere trilogy, co-commissioned by the Magic Theatre and Oregon Shakespeare Festival, about a Latino family in California.

Part One is set in a hardscrabble community of farm workers in the Central Valley, four years into a drought that seems to be taking on biblical proportions.

Los Angeles playwright Alfaro, whose previous plays — two of which premiered at the Magic — have largely been based on Greek mythology, focuses here on a contemporary scenario. His exploration of faith and of values, both personal and societal, reverberates on many levels and is full of humor and mystery and a touch of the surreal.

Under Loretta Greco’s dynamic direction, the action takes place not just on the stage of the Magic Theatre, but throughout the audience as well, just as the church itself exerts its influence upon the townspeople.

Elias (a fiery, compassionate Sean San Jose) is a native son who now has his own church down in San Diego.

But he’s been called back to Delano, after a seven-year absence, by elderly parishioner Hermana Cantu (an excellent, multi-dimensional Wilma Bonet), who wants him to help save the struggling congregation. Her husband, the preacher, died recently, the membership is dispirited, and other, vague forces — including the ominous drought itself – threaten the church’s very existence.

Planning on a brief visit, Elias brings along his wife, Esther (played with graceful simplicity by Sarah Nina Hayon), and it is mostly through her eyes that we see the community, and two eccentric churchgoers: the devout and strident Cantu and the emotionally and comically unhinged Moises (Armando Rodriguez).

Mysteries abound: Why did Elias leave Delano so abruptly years ago? Who is the young pregnant woman (Carla Gallardo) whom only Elias can see? What precisely are the forces that threaten the parish? And what is the hidden agenda of the church association representative from Oregon (a sly and scary Rod Gnapp) who is lurking around and appears to know a lot of secrets?

Some of these questions remain unanswered, making Part One intriguing but inconclusive, with each character hinting at perhaps yet-to-be-revealed depths in further installments.

Beautifully designed (set by Andrew Boyce), performed and directed, “Delano” bodes well for those future installments.


This Golden State, Part One: Delano

Presented by Magic Theatre

Where: Building D, Fort Mason, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays, 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2:30 p.m. Sundays; closes June 14

Tickets: $20 to $60

Contact: (415) 441.8822,

artsLuis AlfaroMagic TheatrePart One: DelanoThis Golden State

Just Posted

Salesforce Tower and several other buildings in downtown San Francisco can be seen through the fog; climate scientists report that The City’s beloved mascot may be on the decline. (Courtesy Engel Ching)
Is San Francisco losing its fog? Scientists fear the worst

This isn’t just an identity crisis for San Franciscans. It’s an ecological problem

Outside Lands boasts high-quality food and drink from dozens of purveyors, and many are local.<ins> (Courtesy Outside Lands)</ins>
Outside Lands is for food lovers

85 food vendors, 40 wineries, 30 breweries make the festival nourishing to gluttonous

California Highway Patrol officers watch as Caltrans workers remove barricades from homeless camp sites as residents are forced to relocate from a parking lot underneath Interstate 80 on Monday, May 17, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
San Francisco’s broken promise to resolve homeless encampments

‘There is an idea that The City is leading with services, and they are not’

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

Gabriela Lopez, Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga were sworn in to the Board of Education on Jan. 7, 2019. The election date for their possible recall is Feb. 15, 2022. (Ida Mojadad/S.F. Examiner)
The silver lining of San Francisco’s ‘recall fever’

Recalls are an expensive but valuable amplifier for everyday people

Most Read