Thursday November 23rd 2017

“El Nogalar”

Highly Recommended  I have just watched a production come to life that I had the good fortune to see in its infancy- the marvelous “El Nogalar” written by Chicago playwright, Tanya Saracho, based on “A Cherry Orchard” where we are now in the year 2011 in Nueva Leon in Mexico. Over the years since Teatro Vista and The Goodman have worked together bringing a different kind of theater to its stages, we have been fortunate in the fact that Ms Saracho is part of Teatro Vista and brings her talent to our area over the many others. Watching the readings of this play over the last few years, I have seen the changes and progress made in the story and found it to be like watching an infant crawl, then walk and now run! I couldn’t help but peer over to watch Ms. Saracho’s face during the production- what a delight to see her enjoying the play she wrote in a full scale production on the stage at The Goodman Theatre!

Directed by Cecilie D. Keenan in the smaller, more flexible Owen Theatre, this production tells the story that Chekhov told but in Mexico instead of Russia- a story that deals with class distinctions and the lives of a family, once wealthy, who are now forced to live a new life and give up al that they have cherished over their lives, and that of their family. The Cherry Orchard is now a pecan orchard and the lades of the house are close to being evicted from what heir family has owned for generations. The drug cartel has taken over the area and those who have had their homes in Nueva Leon are being forced out. The Galvan family’s orchard, the best in the area will soon go the way of the others because the matriarch, Maite ( a powerful performance by Charin Alvarez) has spent her money without thought of the consequences as she has lived in the United States with her daughter, Anita ( deftly handled by Christina Nieves) while the other daughter Valeria ( The always reliable Sandra Delgado) has remained behind to keep the orchard going and to try and save their property. Maite appears to be wearing blinders to what is happening in Mexico and the danger her family will face.

In this story, Lopez ( Carlo Lorenzo Garcia in a strong performance in a female dominated story) who has been involved with the family for many years is now involved with the cartel and is trying to warn and help the Galvan Family. He has some very personal reasons for this generosity which do come out during the story. meanwhile, during these difficult times, he has power to work with and for them, but Maite does not understand or care about the changes that have taken place. Dunia ( a delightful performance by the adorable Yunuen Pardo), the family housekeeper turns out to be a lot smarter than she is given credit for. In fact, she may be the brightest of all in this story about class differences that illustrates how often “street smarts” are better than “book smarts”.

Going back in time, I witnessed this as a reading, and also as a working reading and then as a production reading ( still with scripts in hand). While the storyline was the same, the words kept changing as Ms Saracho took note of what worked and what didn’t and of course as the years went by the dates changed and some of the times changed ( I -pads were not around in the original readings). I have also seen many of the talented Teatro Vista actors play different roles in each step of the process. This ensemble is a powerful force in Chicago’s theater scene and those of you who are not familiar with their work need to seek out their productions for high quality theater with a different view. This show is one of such strength that it really needs no set, just some props and furniture, but to make it special Brian Sidney Bembridge has created a wonderful “dollhouse” of sorts that is moved about the stage and a sthey go from a room to outside or another room, the lights in the dollhouse indicate where they are- very clever and yet never detracts from the action on the stage. Jesse Klug’s lighting effects and Christine Pasqua’s costumes add to the overall production and the original music by Joe Cerqua is the icing on the cake.

Tanya Saracho is a very detailed writer, and one who brings the Mexican flavor to her work as well as a look from the feamle perspective. As she says,”These are her aunts , her cousins” Chekhov was far from her Mexican heritage, but his characters were easy to transport to Mexico with today’s problems and situations. This is a powerful story with many comical moments that allows us a look into the heartache that a family must deal with during a period of unhappy change. FYI- This production marks the start of  a three year partnership with Teatro Vista for The Goodman bringing us more productions with a Latin flavor. There is some Spanish and some Spanglish in this production, but there is no problem understanding everything that you will see and hear. Chalk that up to solid writing, strong direction and some of the best actors in Chicago!

“El Nogalar” ( the Pecan Orchard) will run through April 24th a The Owen in The Goodman Theatre located at 170 N. Dearborn Street with performances as follows:

Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m.,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m.,Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m.

There is also one Sunday evening performance at 7:30 on April 24th

Tickets range from $10 to $42 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-443-3800 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org

To learn more about Teatro Vista, visit www.teatrovista.org

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