It takes only an instant to see that playwright Alicia Mena has moments of extreme excitability. "I found this on the road yesterday!" she beams, pointing to the couch she's just added to the set of her play There Comes a Time...Existe Romance Después de la Epoca de Oro? ("Does Love Exist After the Golden Age?")
Just get her talking about the suave star of the golden age of Mexican cinema, Pedro Infante. "I love him. Look at him. He's Elvis ten times," she says. Mena proudly parades a collection of '40s and '50s teenybopper magazines devoted to the star, which she also will use as props. "Isn't that amazing?" she says, pointing to a full-frontal-nude photo of Infante showering in a more recent magazine. In Mexico, Infante is mythic. He even made the right career move for anyone seeking legend status: His plane crashed, and his body was never recovered, leaving ample room for conspiracies.
In the play, Mena's daughter Kristina Keller assumes the role of Ceci, a girl with her own Infante-fatuation. The show is staged in the same over-the-top, melodramatic style as the old films; Mena even fulfills her childhood fantasy by playing a cabaret singer in the musical numbers. "[The films] are very sexist, but I don't care. They're very campy and wonderful. I love them."
The play premiered in San Antonio, where the University of Houston grad formed Burras Finas Productions to nullify the void of Latino theater there. Bringing the play here, she hopes, might help fill part of Houston's own vacuum. The success she has achieved so far, she credits to one thing: "If you visualize, the universe will drop it down for us, just like that couch."