Sunday December 17th 2017

“Empanada For A Dream”

JuanStrike Lately, many of Chicago’s theater companies have joined together to co-produce theatrical experiences that we might not have been able to witness, and for his I , for one, am thankful. One of our younger “storefront class” theaters, 16th Street Theater, that quaint 50 something seat venue located in the Berwyn Park District  building, one that has brought us some fine work, has now joined with Teatro Vista ( a company that has been bringing us quality work for over 20 years) to bring to this intimate space, Juan Francisco Villa’s “Empanada For A Dream”, a sparkling 80 minute one man show, where Senor Villa opens up his heart and sould in telling us his story.

Directed by Alex Levy, “Empanada”, on an almost bare stage, allowing Mr. Villa the freedom to use the entire stage along with the center aisle, this is one man’s story of a family that caused a young boy pain and fear during his formative years. A Colombian family that lived on the lower east side of New York, that it turns out was somewhat in a world of drugs. Villa believes that the family is what controls our lives, not only during the time of growing up, but in the shaping of one’s future. Life on Allen street may be very familiar to audience members, even those from Chicago neighborhoods. It was a poor area, may people crowded into small tenement apartments. Kids played on the streets, with others watching from above, through windows or fire escapes or porches. I grew up in Austin ( not far from the theater where this is playing) and although our neighborhood was one of Jewish heritage, it was very close in nature. We were of the same faith, but from Germany,Russia,Poland and other spots, so our languages were different ( even the English our elders used sounded different) and the aromas of the “home” cooking spilled into the alleys and courtyards.

In the case of Villa’s memories, it was his mother’s Empanada that was for every occasion and made each event a special one, not just for the family, but for the neighborhood. In this vibrant one man show, where Villa transforms himself from character to character as he tells his story and uncovers the treasures of his family history in order to put an end to his fears of not making it to the age of 33, we can see the cause of his fears. We learn of the booze and drugs that caused the early deaths of many of his family members, and of course his fear that he could be next.

Villa has a great deal of energy and as the story is being told one can see the shirt he is wearing begin to appear damp. I was amazed at the amount of energy expended and the fact that he could move from character to character with only his vocal tone and body language. The tone of the tale is aided by the brilliant lighting by Mac Vaughey and the sound/music by Christopher Kriz. This is a special look into a life and an experience of a man who was able to reduce his fears and go on with his own dreams of doing something special and leaving the past behind and it is told to perfection by Villa. Yes, there is some Spanish used, but not enough to matter- you will understand it all due to the stage presence of Villa, and for many of you, it might stir some of your own deep feelings that you have buried within. Villa, using this play was able to rid himself of his demons, and perhaps his experience can help you do the same.JuanasTioCheppe

“Empanad For A Dream” will continue at The 16th Street Theater located at 6420 West 16th Street in Berwyn through  March 16th with performances as follows:

Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m.

I don’t know if they plan to extend or add Sunday performances and since the theater is intimate ( around 50 seats), I would contact the theater right away and reserve your opportunity to experience this deep and comic look into one man’s life.

call 708-795-6704 or online www.16thstreettheater.org or you can go to the main Berwyn Park District office at 1619 Wesley Ave. in Berwyn

The tickets are a mere $18  ( which is about what you might pay for a move, and this is for LIVE theater.

Free parking is located on the street and in the lot one block west at Gunderson and 16th. Easy access as the theater is just 4 blocks west of Austin Avenue

To see what others say, go to my home page, click on theatre in Chicago box , then go to review round-up and click on “Empanada”

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