Monday December 11th 2017

“Beauty of the Father”

Somewhat recommended  Theater is where the art is performed which is why it doesn’t matter if we see live theater in a storefront, a loft , an elaborate ,lavish theater or even a church. It is what is put on the stage by the actors, directors and playwrights that create what we see and what we take away from the experience. Urban Theater Company, one of our younger troupes, says in their mission statement, they will bring us stories that are “from the streets to the stage” and now, in their new home in the Wicker Park Art Center ( located in St.Paul’s Church) located at  2215 West North Avenue, they show us that it is not the venue itself, but the art that is of import.

Walking into the theater , an actual sanctuary for Nilo Cruz’s “Beauty of the Father” was a moving experience. It is a beautiful chapel with high cathedral ceilings ( which made Kaiser Ahmed’s sound design a difficult task) and a smallish stage prompted me to wonder how they would pull off putting on a production of this type of work. There are no wings, so the actors are in plain sight as they take the stage. As I said the stage is small so the set ( Rick Paul did an amazing job for the space he was given) is limited leaving much to the imagination of the audience. Taking on a production of this magnitude by this young theater company was a gutsy thing to do, but under the direction of Cecilie Keenan, they were able to pull it off ( for the most part- after all, space is limited)

The story is one of love and parenting. Emiliano ( Madrid St.Angelo)is an artist, living in Granada, Spain. He has been there for many years in his estate that faces the sea. His task at hand is doing some paintings depicting the life of Federico Garcia Lorca (Ivan Vega) who was killed years earlier for his lifestyle and being a Communist. Lorca’s ghost ( Vega) hovers over Emilio and advises him on his work and his life, which in many ways is like his. Emiliano has a daughter who he has not seen for many years, who was kept from him by her late mother due to his personal syle of living ( homosexuality), but is now coming to visit and possibly rekindle the lost relationship.

Marina ( sweetly played by Jasmin Cardenas) has no idea of her father’s habit or what caused her mother to take her away and keep her away from him. Upon her arrival, Emiliano, works to keep his secret life from her in order to become the father that he should have been during her younger years. Living with him are Paquita (Mari Marroquin) and her soon to be ex-husband Karim ( deftly handled by Nicolas Gamboa), who is in fact Emiliano’s “boy toy”. Theirs is a marriage of convenience and in name only and to the people of the area, Paquita is the common-law wife of Emiliano and Karim their laborer.

Marina and Karim find themselves infatuated with each other, falling in love, but when Marina finds out the truth of her fathers true lifestyle,things change in their newly rekindled relationship. Karim tells Marina of his love for her and that he was only using her father for gain, but she tells him that in order to have a life with her father, Karim must give himself to him, and his love is so strong he agrees to do so. This is a strong story about the man who wants to regain his daughter’s love and a daughter who would sacrifice for him what could be hers, but in all honesty, not one of Cruz’s best works. It is wordy and bumpy and while the program says 1 hour and thirty minutes, it felt like two hours ( there is a 10 minute intermission),. Perhaps the pews have something to do with that as well. There is no mention of translation, but I can see a little sharper one with this being 90 minutes, no intermission so we don’t lose the passion of the characters. This is a strong cast working very hard to make a slow paced manuscript work.

“Beauty of the Father” will run through November 19th with performances on Thursday,Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.

Tickets are a mere $20 with senior discounts and can be purchased by calling 312-239-8783 or online at www.UrbanTheaterChicago.org

There is street parking ( non-metered) and public transportation makes it easy to get to the new home of this growing theater company.

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