Two of our local theater troupes have joined together to bring a new work to the stage of Chicago Dramatists Theatre. Over the years, each of these troupes, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and Teatro Vista have give us dramas and comedies as well as “think Pieces”. This production, “26 Miles” written by Quiara Alegria Hudes is a stunning look at relationships, in particular, that of a mother and her teenage daughter ,after years of being estranged. At the start of the play we meet Olivia ( a wonderful performance by Ashley Neal) a teen who lives with her father ( Keith Kupferrer)and his new wife. She is ill and in need of some help, but her father sort of shrugs it off. Her problems are deeper than we know and so she calls her mother, Beatriz ( a dynamic portrayal by Sandra Marquez), who leaves her new husband to pick up her daughter. What happens next is that they go on a road trip. Beatriz is having her own problems at home with Manuel ( Edward Torres) and uses this special moment with her daughter to escape from her own life and its problems.
As they hit the road and travel west we learn a lot about each of them and their lives. Beatriz is a Cuban woman who had a child with a Jewish man and young Olivia has lived in a white Jewish world for the past 6 or so years, and knows ver little about her Hispanic heritage. Along the way, she will! Beatriz has started her new life with a Latino , but just as in her first relationship with Olivia’s father, not all is as it should or could be. As they make the trip, the lost years between this mother and daughter are made up in learning more about why they have been estranged, what took place and who they are. Olivia has her own little secrets and as Beatriz shares hers, Olivia begins to open up her heart and soul to her mother.
Directed by Tara Mallen, with a flair for style on a set designed by Regina Garcia, the intimate stage at Dramatists becomes two different homes, motel rooms, the mountains, a gas station and of course the car that took them on this trip to rekindling the lost relationship between mother and daughter. The story is beautifully told and the acting makes the powerful story come alive. Both Torres and Kupferer ( two of Chicago’s true talents)take on some other roles along the way and do some very clever background movements that add just the special something that Teatro Vista is known for- style. Rivendell, since 1994 has used their stages to give voice to women, doing shows that have female central characters, thus this production meets their goal as well as Teatro Vista’s “theater with a view”. This is a charming story that allows us to see that what appears to be difference can, in reality, be the same. Each of our characters, through the power of family finds themselves and learns that there is an opportunity to start anew, no matter what the past.
To produce a product such as this it takes a lot of behind the scenes people, all of who share in the glory of what the audience sees as the final production. It should be noted that these are what might be called the unseen heroes, but without them, the perfection that we see on stage would not be so. Here’s to, Joe Minoso( assistant director), Christine Pasquel ( Costumes), Mikhail Fiskel ( Sound), Diane Fairchild ( lighting) and Julie Silver ( props) and a special tip-of-the-hat to stage manager Jaclyn Holsey, who make s sure that all the pieces fit each and every performance- Bravo!
“26 Miles” will continue at The Chicago Dramatists located at 1105 W. Chicago Avenue ( at the intersection of Milwaukee Avenue,Ogden Avenue and Chicago Avenue through November 21st with performances as follows:
Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.-Sundays at 3 p.m. The play runs about 90 minutes with no intermission, which I adore as we are allowed to stay within the confines of the story with no break making us feel as we are on the road trip with these ladies.
Tickets are $15-$25 ( a real bargain for theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling 773-334-7728 or you can do so on either of their websites ( where you can also learn more about future productions) www.teatrovista.org or www.rivendelltheatre.net