Many of you are not aware that the City of Berwyn has a theater within its borders. That is unless you have read my reviews of the steady work this company provides their audiences. The 16th Street Theater, located in the lower level of the Berwyn Park District 2nd building at 6420 West 16th Street ( perfect for the name) just a few blocks west of Austin Blvd., is easy to get to and worth the trip. Each year, they follow a theme. This is the 6th season for this company and the theme is “The American Dream”. Following on the heels of their wonderful production of their extended, sold out run of “Empanada for a Dream”, a one man show, they are presenting “Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way” written by Diane Rodriguez.
Last April, this play was presented by Teatro Luna ( the only all female Latina theater company in the area) at The Viaduct Theatre located on the North Side of Chicago. Director, Ann Filmer, felt that moving this play to her more intimate 16th Street Theater stage would make the story even more meaningful- she was right. This is a story that needs to allow us to peer into the faces of the actors, who are telling us a story, or as I said in my earlier review stories. The stories are about the women mostly, but unlike most of Teatro Luna’s works, this one includes a man ( or it could be two, if you count the spirits). Each of these women has a story and this 80 minute play takes us into their lives and their relationships with each other.
The main character is Lily charmingly played by Rose Guccione. Lily is recently widowed. She has a lovely home in a subdivision that has an active homeowners association ( of which she wants to be president of). Her Husband was ill for awhile and during this time, she hired a Mexican girl, Little Maria ( again played by the lovely Amanda De La Guardia), whose older sister, Big Maria ( returning Miranda Gonzalez, as feisty as ever) has been caring for Lily’s mother at her house. These are immigrants from Mexico, who have told Lily that they have their papers, but as it turns out, they do not. They are “living Large”, but as it turns out, they are not living quite as large as they would like to.
Lilly, it turns out has some deep roots as her childhood was nothing close to the life that her Joe gave her. Lily also has a sister, Nellie ( played in this version by Urban Theatre’s Marilyn Camacho) a sexy, woman who dresses like a teen and cares only about what she can buy . Her husband Sammy ( the always reliable Madrid St.Angelo, who also plays Joe’s spirit in Lily’s visions), a Cuban, trusts no one and intends to keep his promise to Joe, to watch over Lily and make sure she is okay. As the story goes on, Lily, now alone, offers both Marias, and big Maria’s daughter ( who we never see) the opportunity to move out of their crowded apartment and move in with her, but they refuse. They are trying to build their own “Living Large” way of life.
This is the story of two sets of Mexican-American sisters, those who have been raised in the United States and the others who have found a way to get here. The two Marias, though in order to truly “live large” must obtain a 9 digit number- a social security card. Try to imagine your life without one and the problems and obstacles you would face on a daily basis- that is the plight of many Mexican-Americans, some born and raised here, and yet, the magical 9 digit card is out of their reach. That is the main crux of the story, but Rodriguez also touches on relationships between the two pairs of sisters. Lily and Nellie have their set of problems, but the two Marias, even larger. Big Maria, in order to get a job steals Joe’s Social Security card and uses it. Sammy discovers this and stirs up what this could do to their family. Meanwhile, Sammy also finds out that during Joe’s illness, none of the household bills were being handled and Lily, who thought she was indeed “living large” is in a great deal of debt.
This story is based on a real life situation, as most of Teatro Luna’s works are. In fact, many plays that we see have ideas that are created by real life situations in the playwrights lives, but because the topic of this one is very near and dear to Americans, due to what is taking place, this particular play has more meaning to each and every audience member. For those of you who saw the previous production, be advised that Ms Rodriguez has made some changes in the script and in particular the ending ( much happier) and under the direction of Ms Filmer in this much cozier venue, I think the show plays better. Also be advised that while the show is in English, there are many sprinklings of Spanish, but fear not, if you listen with care and watch the actors and what they do, you will get it!
The set, a much smaller version of the original (Jessica Kuehnau Wardell) is te back door of the house, a backyard with a fence and a shed> The lighting is by Mac Vaughey, and once again, works better in this venue. The costumes by Christine Pascual, sound by Steven Yaussi and props by Jesse Gaffney are the finishing touches on a recipe for 80 minutes of laughing and learning about a real life situation- a sort of “Sassy Comedy” with a real life immigration problem.
“living Large” will continue at The 16th Street Theater through May 11th with performances as follows:
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m.
Maybe they will add more shows ( I would love to see Sundays added to the mix)
Tickets (open seating) are a mere $18.00 and can be purchased at the actual Berwyn Park District office at 1619 Wesley Avenue, by phone at 708-795-6704 or online at www.16thstreettheater.org
Plenty of free parking in the area- on the street or down the block a lot located one block west at Gunderson.
To see what others are saying, go to www.theatreinchicago.com, click on Review Round-up and click “Living Large”