Somewhat Recommended ** I am not sure how many people know about the Halcyon Theatre Company, a ten year old company that has as its mission statement that they are “committed to making the stage as diverse as the City of Chicago, dedicated to presenting new voices from communities that are not represented as the voice they should be able to offer”. I have re-worked these words to make it easier to understand, the second part of what this Albany Park company is doing. They are offering FREE theater. Yes, NO COST ADMISSION, so that the people who would never have an opportunity to experience live theater, do get the exposure that may change their lives! They only charge $20 for what they call “Guaranteed Seats”. The Free Seats are first come-first served and those who pay the $20 are assured they will be seated. The theater is open seating for all!
This was my first experience with this theater company which presents its plays on the third floor of the Christ Evangelical Church located at 3253 West Wilson (entrance is just south of Wilson on Spaulding) and they do have one of those lift chairs making the third floor accessible. The current production is “Estrella Cruz (The Junkyard Queen)” written by Charise Castro Smith. The theater stage which is large and filled with levels and things I remember from my garage sales of yore, might have been designed by the people who brought “Sanford and Son” to sit-com television back in the 1970’s. I have a feeling that Nicholas Schwartz also recalls those episodes!
The story is confusing as we are learning about a young woman’s “coming of age”. This is a far cry from Marriott’s “Spring Awakening” and is based on the Greek myth “Persephone” and her journey to the underworld (also known as Hell). This version has the story about a young Cuban-American girl becoming a woman. Allyce Torres does a fine job bringing this character to life, and watching her go from girl to woman works. Director Tony Adams evidently understands what the original story is about, but Castro-Smith lost me several times with Estrella’s imaginary friend Bette Davis (Kelly Opalko) who it seems does everything, but in many instances, for no reason. There are even a few times that she becomes a distraction to the other action that we should be watching.
The set is filled with television sets that detail the work of Estrella’s mother Aurelia Cruz, the greatest inventor in all of France, which according to this script is in South America- WHAT? I did find that Tamika Lechee Morales brought a lot to this role, but felt that they over played her sexiness and some of the costumes she wore were much more revealing than a woman of Aurielia’s stance would have worn. Back to the story- Estrella is kidnapped and taken to the junkyard where she meets Pablo the Junker (Robert N. Isaac), who it seems is in reality The Devil. They make love and a baby comes from the union. The baby’s voice is played by Noe Jara ( we see his mouth as the baby speaks to his mama). There is also a rescue attempt by Hermes (deftly handled by Johnny Garcia, who could only do so much with the lines written for this role). While Estrella does grow into womanhood and learn about love and life, the others do not seem to express similar endings.
I had hoped for something special from this group. I always fight hard for the smaller theater companies to help them get audiences to discover them. In this case, while there is some sparkling talent, it might pay for the executive board to find scripts that will make more sense to the people of the neighborhood that they are attempting to bring to the theater. I would love to hear what you have to say. “Estrella Cruz (The Junkyard Queen) will continue through February 27th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 6 p.m.
Tickets/GUARANTEED are $20 and can be reserved online at www.halcyontheatre.org/esrellacruz or call 773-413-0454.
The theater is located at 3253 West Wilson Avenue in Chicago, with plenty of street parking in the area. Running time has been quoted as 70 minutes, but, here again, they were a bit off. It ran 90 minutes with no intermission.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Estrella Cruz (The Junkyard Queen).