When is a cabaret show almost theater? When you get a story-teller with all the energy of Elizardi Castor and he tell you why it is so special to be “Made In Puerto Rico”! That is the name for his one man show now being performed in the “cabaret Theater” downstairs at the Chicago Center for Performing Arts, that charming little venue on Green Street at Chicago Avenue. For those of you who read my interview with this lawyer turned actor ( well, at least comedian) watching him perform after hearing why he left the “white Collar” professional life to bring his story to audiences, makes a lot of sense. Eli ( his nickname) loves to tell his story- almost as much as an attorney loves approaching a jury with his opening and closing statements- and he does it with energy and love! Love for who he is and his family- energy that keeps him moving about the stage for close to two hours of not just telling his stories, but of educating the audience about things from Puerto Rico ( including of course, Puerto Ricans)!
His audience, no matter their ethnicity, will see in his stories, some of what they experienced growing up. As Eli speaks about his trips to visit Puerto Rico for the Summer, I saw many faces of audience members think back to how they were shipped off to visit relatives, that they hardly knew. In my childhood, I was sent off to my great grandparents Farm in Michigan for a month. I do believe that the only time I ever saw them was the month of July each summer, my wife , who grew up in St. Louis was shipped off to visit her relatives in Houston for the entire Summer. All of us were raised differently, yet this little story was felt by all in attendance. That is why I almost classify this cabaret comedy outing as a sort of play- it is a story about a life, the life of one Elizardi Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico, moved to Westchester County, New York ( talk about a change of environment), then off to Florida and now here in Chicago. In his second half of the evening, he speaks about why he loves Chicago and landed here. The drive down Division Street as you go west, and you hit Rockwell- that is why our Purto Rican community grows- they love their flag and when you drive under the flag, you feel as if you are indeed entering Puerto Rico, so, if you are a Puerto Rican visitor seeking a place to call home, this si the spot! ( just to make sure you notice it, as Eli says, if your continue to drive further west, you cannot help to notice another sculpture of your flag, making sure that you know you have landed home!
As Eli tells his stories and does some great dance moves to illustrate points, the audience tonight was in hysterics. Even when he used a little more Spanglish then expected, everyone, even the non-Hispanics got most of it and if they didn’t, Castro, goes back to fill them in, but he does this as if he were your friend and you look like you missed something, so you don’t feel left out, EVER! Tonight’s audience was probably 50/50 so when he did some Puerto Rican songs, they joined in. I did notice as the evening progressed, even some of the “gringos” were singing along. That is the power of good story telling. Bringing everyone into the fold. The most important part of his show is that “you don’t have to be Puerto Rican” to have a blast. All of his stories and anecdotes are close to your own life’s experiences as he observes his life, his family and his roots, in the back of your mind, you’ll be doing likewise.
“Made In Puerto Rico” will continue at the Chicago Center For the Performing Arts, located at 777 N. Green Street through May 1st with performances Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. Tickets are a mere $15.00, just a bit more than a movie theater ticket and a heck of a lot of fun for the money. To order your tickets, call 312-733-6000 or visit www.theaterland.com
There is limited street parking ( some metered, some not) and of course with the CTA, the Halsted bus or Chicago Avenue bus will bring you withing a half block of the venue. If you are driving, make it a special event by hitting Division Street first. Get to Division and Kedzie and travel East. As you pass California, look for Coco restaurant (2723 ), traditional authentic and modern Puerto Rican cuisine ( phone 773-384-4811) the menu is complete and really good food at reasonable prices and if you tell them you are on the way to “Made In Puerto Rico”, and show them your reservations, I think you will be in for a special surprise. In fact, I know you will have a great meal and will be ready to learn more about Puerto Rico from the master story teller, Elizardi Castro!