Monday January 23rd 2017

“First Class”

firstclassposterWhile Urban Theater Company’s Midwest premiere of Candido Tirado’s “First Class” is supposed to be in New York, it could easily be any neighborhood of any major city, in particular, an ethnic neighborhood. The story is about two “brothers”, who in reality are not blood related, but grew up sharing ther lives, their homes and protecting each other. This is a two person play, and while it may be a bit long ( two hours) with an intermission that separates the time of action, it moves quite quickly. Smoothly directed by Juan Castaneda on a set that represents a small “island” in the park, with a bench and a tree and lots of garbage ( that may be how we know it is New York), it is about the men and their lives and the relationship they had that is what this story is all about.

“First Class” is Urban Theaer Company’s first production at their new location in  “The Hood” at 2628 West Division Street. They had left the area for a spell, spreading their wings in finding a new space, but in reality since their mission is to bring stories that are “from the streets to the stage”, why not be on Division street between the Puerto Rican Flags that spread over the busy street. The storefront they have selected is not spacious, ( about 40-48 patrons can fit in the actual stage area) , but they do have a lobby and the bathrooms are located in convenient spots. It is a new space for them and I am sure , as time goes on, they will work out some of the “bugs”

no lobby furniture, not so comfy chairs, poor lighting; these are all fixable. What they do offer is quality of writing ( choice of plays), fine direction, outstanding tech work ( under not so perfect conditions) and fine acting. Let’s face it- what we want is quality, affordable and convenient theater and Urban is offering just that!

This slick production features Hank Hilbert as Apache, who lives in the park, sleeping on the bench and what a marvelous interpretation he offers. Apache , growing up was a loser, facing an unhappy childhood. His mother was a whore and he befriended Speedy ( a solid performance by Ivan Vega) who only wants to live a “first class” life. They have been apart for awhile, since Apache’s mother killed herself, when Speedy shows up. He talks about his great new life and the future of being wealthy in getting married and having a child. Apache wants nothing to do with Speedy as he did not show up at the funeral.

In the first act, we learn a great deal about these two men and what they want in their lives. As the act comes to a close, the tensions grow even stronger, but Speedy leaves, heading for his new “First Class” life, leaving Apache alone to protect his turf and survive against all odds. The second act takes place at the same location, six months later. Apache now has a business of his own and a place to live. He also has a girlfriend ( from their past) and Speedy comes back to seek help from his “brother”. What we see here is the two men reach out to each other and back off from each other as well. As the act continues, despite some very hateful discussions, they both see that they are in fact “brothers” who rely and depend on each other to survive in the world that is unkind in many ways.

As the play ends, we are left to think about these two men and their dependency on each other. can it work? Can they really regain the affection they had for each other as kids? Or, are they destined to continue to reach for things that are not reachable. I for one felt that Apache became more realistic about life than Speedy, but perhaps Speedy will see that “First  Class” is not all that he thought it was!

This is a solid production, but one that is very limited in its run:  Thru October 22nd

Performances as follows:

Sundays at 3 p.m.

Mondays and Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m.

That is it- a little different as it is not a date night schedule, but it gets you into some of the local restaurants wuith ease. I myself enjoyed a great dinner at Coco ( traditional Puerto Rican cuisine) just down the street at 2723 West Division ( 773-384-4811). If you are on Paseo Boricua, why not? Affordable and delicious.

The tickets for “First Class” are only $20 ( students $15, Seniors, $10- what a bargain. call 312-239-8783 or visit www.urbantheaterchicago.org

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “First Class”.

Maybe, they will decide to re-mount this at a alter date with a complete run allowing more people to see the qualit work they offer. I sure hope so. I also hope that an angel will come by and show them how they can create better sight lines and brighter lighting.

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