A new local theater ( if one can call Waukegan local) has come to life. The Clockwise Theatre Company of Waukegan has as its mission: To produce timely, smart , professional theater with an emphasis on Midwestern artists, that will bring theatrical and cultural experiences to its audiences. By choosing “Kita y Fernanda” by Tanya Saracho as its premiere production, they have already started on the right foot. This is a brilliant and very timely look at class, immigration and relationships between women. While it is presented in a combination of English and Spanish, with no subtitles, there is no problem staying with the story at all, even for us Gringos! Director Doug Mcdade utilizes the storefront theater to its fullest advantage as we go from Chicago, on the day of the Immigration March to the past.
Kita and Fernanda are both at the march, not having seen each other in a number of years and although they see each other at the march, they do not realize that the other has seen them as well. We then go back in time, when they were 8 years old. Kita ( a powerful performance by Nada Steier) and her mother , Concha ( played to perfection by newcomer Catalina Quinones Nelson) have crossed the border, leaving Mexico and have arrived at the Texas home of Dona Silvia ( deftly handled by Diana Serna) and her 8 year old daughter Fernanda ( a beautiful performance by Wendy George Valasso) where Concha will work as cook, laundrywoman and general maid. While the two girls have different backgrounds, they become friends, but over the years, we see that Fernanda’s spoiled American ways cause tension between them.
We are witness to their likes and dislikes, their differences as well as those of their mothers and even the friends they choose, Jessica, the typical “yuppie”/”valley Girl” type , for Fernanda and Chela , the American /Mexican for Kita. Both of these friends are played by Norma Serna who handles the two characters perfectly, each having a unique personality. In fact, for a while, I thought twin sisters might be playing these parts, only to find that Serna was able to do the dual roles with no carryover from one to the other. That is quality acting.
While the flashback to their memories is really what the story is all about, it is of great import, that the Rally/March be the start and finish of the story. Just think how topical this is in light of what is taking place in Arizona right now. We see the two girls become friends and although they are like sisters, they do have different personalities, likes and dislikes. Fernanda is an American first and a Mexican second- Kita, the opposite. Kita is smarter and works harder to learn, winning a scholarship, but because she has no “papers” cannot take advantage of what might change her future. One of the qualities of Saracho’s works is the heart and soul that she puts into each script she writes. I was fortunate to sit behind her for this production and able to watch her reaction to seeing her work, as if for the first time. She told me that she had not met any of the cast or visited any of the rehearsals, so what she saw was exactly what we saw and the solid production is deserving of all the praise that I can give it. Some of these actors have never performed before, others very limited. To work in a small storefront theater on a hot muggy night and to present a sterling production show me that Clockwise is truly headed in the right direction. I , for one, envision many more trips to Waukegan to see this company in action.
“Kita y Fernanda” will continue at the Clockwise Theatre located at 114 S. Genesee Street ( downtown Waukegan) just north of Rte 120/Belvedere Road, through August 15th with performances as follows:
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are a mere $15
Loads of parking on the street and a wonderful little pub next door. The play is about 100 minutes long, no intermission and if the weather stays as it has been, dress casual.