Wednesday August 23rd 2017

“Cars and Quinceaneras”

carsSomewhat Recommended** One of the best parts of my job is to watch smaller theater companies grow. Two years ago, a small company named Clockwise Theatre made an impact in a small storefront in downtown Waukegan. Yes, Waukegan! This is the large city that sits just to the north of THE NorthShore and is going through a rebirth in the downtown area. With new dining spots opening and a campus of the College of Lake County, and of course, the rebirth of The Genesee Theater ( just three doors to the south of a new facility that has just opened as Clockwise Theatre, this is a company that will be here and will continue to grow. It is a lovely venue, converted from a grocery store, this is a high ceiling space with ample seating ( comfy seats as well), great lighting and an energetic group of people who want to bring multi cultural works to one of the State’s largest cities, Waukegan.

Their current production is called “Cars and Quinceaneras, written by Susan Lieberman, who gathered her information  doing an outreach program at Morton West High School in Berwyn. After interviewing students and learning more about the Mexican  Culture, she wrote a small play for the members of her group and then decided to take it to another level and write a complete story, which is making its World Premiere at Clockwise. The story is about tradition, hopes, dreams and how as we grow older and draw from our experience, we see the world through different eyes.

How important are our traditions? The Quinceaneras is the celebration of the Mexican girl as she enters womanhood. This takes lace on her 15th birthday. Other cultures have their tradions, the Bat Mitzvah, confirmation, cotillion and others represent a girl becoming a woman and for those who have no family tradition, the “Sweet Sixteen” has its place. In this story, Ana (  the lovely Charlotte Mae Ellison) is turning 15 and desires her party to be very special. Her brother Luis ( deftly handled by Christopher Acevedo) is older and with their father leaving has become  the man of the house. he is also in high school, about to graduate and has dreams and visions of owning a car and then his own mechanic shop and having the world at his door. Young people all have dreams, but as life happens, those dreams often become nightmares. Luis and Ana have $8,000 coming to them and Luis wants to use the money to purchase a car. Ana wants to use her half to pay for her special day.

CarsHiRes3

Luis has a girlfriend, Miriam ( a strong performance by Norma Serna) who is planning her college education and a strong future, but as luck Will have it, she becomes pregnant. They must decide what to do. Keep the baby which will shatter all their hopes and dreams? Put the baby up for adoption, so that it will be raised with a better life than they had? Abortion? Out of the question! Of course, the pregnancy changes all. Ana and her mother begin to plan a smaller, less expensive party and Luis give sup on the car as he and Miriam decide what their future will be.

The title of this play is only a part of what Lieberman is trying to express. This is a story about the Hispanic culture and the people who came to America to have better lives and educations. They are straddling two worlds, their culture and their new lives. They are also straddling the coming of age- going from being a child to an adult and all that comes with it. Juan Castaneda’s direction shows a clear understanding of the script, but the script is not really ready for prime time. It needs to have better transitions and I was sad to see that they had Ms Ellison also playing the part of Father Andrew, who between scenes would give us more history about the Quinceaners itself. This should have been a man, but for some reason ( perhaps it is being in Waukegan) they had only Mr. Acevedo ( who also played a photographer) and Dagoberto Soto , who played  four roles and may I say, each with a different personality so there was no confusion as to who he was. Marjury Mejia, plays  Neli, the rich little friend of Ana, who is willing to help to show her friendship.

The other cast members,Jeri Toco and Kelly Lynn Hogan, played many roles. In fact, I thought there were many more people in the cast , so they did their jobs in creating strong characters who never confused me as to who they were. Hats off to these two ladies for the solid work they did. Again, this is a show about culture and dreams with what one might call a happy ending. Their is a party and Luis does become the Honor Escort and does do the Waltz with her after doing the Shoes ( in most cases, this is done by the father, who is somewhat estranged ) and so Luis takes on the task of changing Ana’s shoes from flat slippers to high heels  a symbol of transformation from girl to woman).

The set  by Tracie Duncan allows us to have many levels so that we can be in the house, at the school, at the mother’s work place ( a cleaners) and of course a level where Father Andrew speaks to us from. Being a new company, with I am sure limited funds, I was surprised at the creativity shown. The lighting (David Miller) works to perfection with no dark spots and the sound/music(Mason Absher) was for the most part fine. It seems that many o four young actors do not speak clearly or project to the back of the house. Not just in this production, but in almost all of the theaters where they are not miked. The speak in a conversational tone and those in the back  of the house miss some of the words that will bring the story line to life. Shana Hall’s costumes were nice and the props assembled by Brad Paschall fit the needs.

All in all, this is a story that should be told and possibly in less than two hours and fifteen minutes. In fact, if shaved properly to about 90-100 minutes without an intermission and a fuller cast, this is a show that should be seen by both younger and older audiences and  by people of all ethnicity’s . “cars” will continue at Clockwise Theatre located at 221 N. Genesee  Street in Waukegan through February 17th with weekend performances

visit www.clockwisetheatre.org  or call Brown Paper Tickets at 1-800-838-3006 This is open seating ( but good sight lines) and all tickets are $20

Downtown Waukegan is easy to get to using the toll road or Route 41 where you can exit at route 120 and head east to Genesee. Then North several blocks to the theater. When you hit the downtown area there are some spots to get a drink or a meal which you will find on their site, but I would suggest making a reservation at Fiamico, just around the corner from the theater on Grand Avenue between Genesee and Sheridan Road- they have a wonderful Fettucini Fiamico- 847-672-4117 .

Parking is for the most part easy and inexpensive ( meters are there but only for limited time) and there is parking at the restaurant ( I am sure they will let you stay)

To see what others say, please visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to review round-up and click on “Cars and Quinceaneras”

 

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