Recommended *** In 2010, The Goodman Theatre hosted Latino Fest. One of the performances in this festival was done by The Albany Park Theater Project, a youth ensemble that works together to bring culture to the communities who for the most part have not been introduced to the performance arts. They work from a premise that needs exploration. The task at hand is to present the topic in a theatrical way, allowing the viewers to comprehend what it is they are saying. Their “Feast” which was a part of the 2010 festival is back at The Goodman. The cast is new, as the kids from that era are now into higher education or even in the work force.
Twenty-Two young, talented people take us on a journey in “Feast” that in its narratives takes us into stories that deal with “food”. The stories deal with different people and their love of food, their heritage and ethnic values relative to food. It is in these stories that we learn about various cultures of Chicago’s ethnic communities, mostly, of course those residing in Albany Park, a neighborhood on the North side. When I was young, the area was very Jewish (Polish and Russian descent). As the years passed and people moved to the suburbs, the changes brought many Hispanics, Arabs, Asians, Serbians, Lebanese and other ethnic groups. Drive down Lawrence Avenue from Western Avenue to Pulaski and you will see many languages on the store windows over these 16 blocks of Chicago.
To make this 90 minute story take place, interviews with many locals gave them the basis. The stories have not changed. The staging has changed so that it is now “in the round” of the smaller Owen Theater. There are monitors set up for translations of English to Spanish and Spanish to English, but to be honest, two of these is not really enough for this venue. People were reaching over others in order to see what was being said. The sound was fine for the musical portions, but there were times that the voices did not carry throughout the theater, and I was in the fourth row.
Since this cast of players is new, they were exposed to many of the things that were a part of the original cast’s project ; the tasting of the foods that are discussed, learning how to prepare a lamb biryani (Alyanna Parajado, who was born in the Philippines), Little Village where the ladies learned the secrets of “Feria del Mole”, and the Lebanese butchers who with knives and sharpeners as well as butcher blocks make music. While there are some moments that are a bit disjointed, the flow of action is aided by the comedy of Carlos Desantiago and Ely Espino who we meet at the very beginning in a scene that appears to be two kids shoplifting food for their families. The entire story follows the people from the Link card (food stamps) and how it affects those that live by them. Exciting when the fresh card comes, for some and embarrassing for others, who would rather not have anyone know that their family would not eat without this plastic card.
There are some stories, such as the one about the cow that is an amazing one where the young performers take on the roles of “The Foley” ( these were the sound effect people on radio) as they bring all the sounds of life to life- an amazing section of the show that in itself is worth the price of the ticket. I am not sure if I was able to pick out all those who did this sketch, but I think they were : Hector Velazquez, Jeremy Sebastian, Paola Rico and Kito Espino ( if I missed anyone, I am sorry). There is also, during the scene on welfare, an amazing shopping cart experience (a dangerous bit of direction by this group of directors) in which Maidenwena Alba flies about the stage with a standard grocery cart- a bit scary at times, but well done. The list of performers is long, and each is deserving of the standing ovation they received. The show is not for everyone, but everyone who sees it will enjoy, and even more, they will learn a little more about the cultures that are presented, from the hearts and souls of these young people.
The cast , in addition to those previously mentioned is as follows: Lizabeth Acevedo, Gustavo Duran, Liliana Duran, Johnny Hazmo ,Brandon Lorbes, Kiara Lyn Manriquez, Justin Martinez, Paloma Morales ( who does a powerful monologue about the fear of being discovered as a welfare recipient), Chelsee Nava, Jesi Rojo, Christina Saliba and Maria Velazquez. Bravo! The Albany Park Theater Project should be proud of the work you are doing. “Feast” will continue through August 16th with performances as follows:
Fridays 8 p.m.
Saturdays 8 p.m.
Sundays 2 p.m.
Tickets for “Feast” range from $10-$25 and can be purchased at the box office, located at 170 N. Dearborn Street, by phone at 312-443-3825 or online at www.GoodmanTheatre.org
Discount parking is available (check website) and to learn more about this talented group, visit www.APTPChicago.org
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Feast”