Recommended *** While Chicago is known for its many splendid theatrical companies, those with large stages and wonderful history, we are also known for the many store-front theaters that make their homes in the neighborhoods of the city. One of these is the Urban Theater Company, now in its tenth year of bringing theater to an area that prior to them, had little or nothing to offer the residents. Urban Theater Company has brought some beautiful theater to their multicultural community known as Humboldt Park ( West Division Street ).The store-front they are using as they celebrate the tenth season is located at 2620 West Division in what was called the Batey Urbano, and retains the name on its signage. This was a youth meeting space where the arts became a part of the lives of the teens from the area who took refuge there instead of being on the streets.
The current production in this very intimate space is “Adoration of the Old Woman” written by Jose Rivera, celebrating its Midwest Premiere with this company. In a way, it is a “coming of age” story for a young teen, a learning experience for the “Old Woman” and a trip into the minds of the Puerto Ricans as the United States plans to add another star to the flag. As the play begins, we meet the Old Woman, Belen ( a wonderful character study by Nydia Castillo) and Adoracion ( the lovely Melissa DuPrey) who as it turns out is a ghost that shares a bed with the Old Woman. As we learn during the telling of the story, they also shared a man, the Old Woman’s late husband.
Vanessa (deftly handled by Debbie Banos) comes to visit her great- grandmother (again, the old woman) and to clean up her life. She has grown up in the Unites States, not having to speak any Spanish as well as knowing customs or traditions. Part of the story is that of the building of the relationship between Vanessa and her great -grandmother. It is a time of turmoil in Puerto Rico as well. There is opposition to the possession becoming a state as then the traditions of the past may all be lost for future generations. Cheo (a smooth portrayal by Andrew Neftali Perez) is very anti the Island becoming a state. I do not want to give up anything relative to the way the story ends, but I can tell you that he and Vanessa do fall in love.
The other character in this story is Ismael (Armando Reyes) who is a friend of Belen and it seems ready to allow his “island” to become a part of the greater good and be a state. There are some skirmishes between these two men and a great fight (choreographed by Johnny Moran) that appeared very realistic. In fact, all the slaps and other “fight” sequences were very well done. Juan Castaneda’s direction is somewhat limited due to the space he works in. This is a store and the set (designed by Noel Spence) has several rooms but are not what one might anticipate as there is a low -budget and a very narrow stage area. There were a few times I found confusion in where the characters might be coming from and why there was no door for them to knock on or open for entry. This probably made it difficult for some of the younger audience members the night I was there.
Rebecca Bartle’s lighting design is wonderful and Amy Couey’s props were very fitting. Fredy Rocha’s costumes rounded out the technical parts of the show, which again, under the limitations that this company has, were very nicely done. This just shows that we do not need the glitz and glamour that many theater company’s feel must be there. All we need is a good story, solid acting and direction to make the story seem real, and the one thing that Urban has done over these years, despite all the set backs, is just that ,”tell a great story, and do it well!” There are some twists and turns in the relationships between these characters making it a mystery of sorts with family secrets, a unique love triangle and political turmoil. The puzzle does get all its parts in the end! Running time two hours with a 10 minute intermission.
“Adoration of the Old Woman” will continue only thru March 13th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
Tickets are only $20 (students and seniors $12) People who reside in 60622 $10Teatro Thursday $30 for dinner and show. Have one of three dinner options at La Havana Café (down the street) and the show for $30.00 .To order you ticket/make a reservation call 312-767-8821 or visit www.UrbanTheaterChicago.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Adoration of the Old Woman”