Chicago Fusion Theatre is a group of diversified members and through their work, they attempt to fuse different genres,mediums and styles in an effort to foster a greater appreciation of the arts in the community. Their current production, a warm and somewhat moving story, “Las Hermanas Padilla” ( The Padilla Sisters) written by Tony Menses, does fit the mold of their “mission statement”, but is a bit awkward in getting there.
Directed by Juan Castaneda, on the very small stage at the DCA Storefront Theater on Randolph Street, with a cast of 10 female actresses, on a set by Noel Dominique, I found some confusion as to where we were. The set is one house, a kitchen, a dining area and a living room,but during the scenes, it seems that we are not in the same house at all times ( at least by references in the script). The story is about ten sisters-in-law, who live in the same community. Their husbands are off at war ( there is no mention as to where they are and who they are fighting), but as they adjust to being thrown together, pigeons, come to them with a name in their beak- the name is of their husband, advising them of their death.
They are forced to console each other during these trying times and learn that life goes on. These ladies who came together only because of marriage, as time goes on, find themselves relying on each other and finding the true meaning of what family is all about. There are many touching scenes, but none finer than the final scene, where the 9 remaining women ( one has flown the coop) find themselves writing words of hope and love to give the pigeons so that the next ladies will find some solace without the help of 9 others.
There are some fine performances in this 90 minute production ( no intermission) and the projections(Liviu Pasare), Lighting ( Michael C. Smith) and sound ( Christopher Kriz) all make the effects and moods a part of the show. During the opening, there were a few prop problems ( there are a lot of props in this show (Courtney Reed-Schaefer and Asley Rose), but they were handled with great agility by Natalie DiCristofano ( Carmen). The other ladies,Natalie Turner-Jones, Erica Cruz Hernandez, Susan Myburgh,Jeanne T. Arrigo,Emma Peterson, Jackie Alamillo, Meghann Tabor, Charlotte Mae Jusino and Nilsa Reyna, while not all Latinas, brought the Latina flavor to their characters.
After interviewing the director a few weeks ago and hearing about the process of how the characters were developed by the ladies, I watched each one and found that the fault of my not loving the play was not the cast or the director, but that the script had some holes in it. The story is beautiful and perhaps just needs some tweaking or to be on a larger stage, but it is a story that shows how important true friendship and family can be under circumstances that are out of the ordinary.
“Las Hermanas Padilla will continue at The DCA Storefront Theater located at 66 East Randolph Street ( between Michigan and Wabash) through April 1st with performances as follows:
Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $25 General admission, $15 for seniors and students ( with valid ID) and can be purchased by calling 312-742-8497, stopping by the Chicago Cultural Center at 78 E. Washington, or by visiting www.dcatheater.org