Friday July 28th 2017

“Patria Libre”

Patria-idea1-300x188 Many young playwrights have ideas that fill their heads but as they put it down on paper, they lose track of exactly what it is they are trying to say. While I can applaud them for the ideas and the eagerness to create, I truly wish that they would test the market with readings and discussion groups in order to bring something stronger to the actual production. Prologue Theatre Company is a young, energetic company that has as it’s “Mission Statement” that” they desire to bring the past to the public through the voices of the unrepresented. Their stories, both relevant and diverse are designed to enlighten the community to consider the future”. I have paraphrased the actual words they use in order to make it more readable. As a newer company, one without a home of their own, they are “gypsies” and so they use other venues. They are currently offering a World Premiere, “Patrai Libre” at the Rivenendell Theatre space located at 5779 N. Ridge Avenue. This is a very intimate space holding about 48 patrons but has the design which allows for sets that would fill a much larger space. They have used this space very well ( set designed by Shaun Renfro. Let me get back to the production itself.

This is the story of Maria Perez ( deftly handled by Heather L. Jenks) who fled Nicaragua with her three children after a battle for freedom. Her husband Victor ( played by Kevin Matthew Reyes), as it turns out, died in this battle, but we, the audience get to know a little about him as he returns as a spirit. She has also brought her mother-in-law to avoid the threats upon their family from those they fought. They now live in Chicago, together and the years have flown, with all the children grown up. The mother-in-law appears, but after awhile, we begin to assume that she is also a spirit that only the oldest daughter, Laurs ( the enticing Katia Gomez) sees along with Maria. In fact, there are many spirits roaming the well protected ( five locks on the door and a watchdog protect the perimeter of the home. There are military people coming out of the refrigerator and the cabinets. In the very opening scene, we are thrown into battle as Maria comes into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. This is a little confusing for the audience and as the show progresses, they appear quite often, even handing the milk to Maria from the refrigerator. What?

While the five locks are there to show the fear this family still has, because of the way it is handled, the audience found themselves laughing. This was not done for comic effect, but rather to show how this family’s minds were tarnished by the life they left behind. Daughter Armada ( a powerful job by Paula Ramirez) is the middle child who doesn’t understand why they live the way they do and wants to live the way her American friends do. Their is also a love story for her ( jay Espano is the tough guy salesman who she adores, but who only uses her) and the youngest child, Maria’s only son, Rigoberto ( a fine performance by Adriel Irazarry) knows nothing about his father or why they were forced to fell their homeland.

Zoe Miller-Lee, the playwright, seems to have caught herself into a mixed bag of ideas and fought hard to find the pattern to follow, but took us in to many directions. Her conception was that our past leads us to our present and future and the effects that war has on the people involved. It supposedly speaks to the veterans of war, any war and how their lives change as a result of the war. Civilians who become soldiers are trained to fight, but when it is time to come home, there is no training for the life they will now be forced to live- the memories that will linger for years to come. Director Tara Branham has assembled a strong cast of actors, a wonderful design team and yet this 2 hours PLUS play doesn’t quite get the point to those who are watching. There are to many side stories and an end that left me cold. The show ends after a terrible Mother’s day for this family and while they begin to get a little closer, we cannot be sure if what transpired in this short period of time will have a lasting result on this family.

Some of the production team should be noted for some outstanding work- Raquel Adorno for her costumes, Danielle Stack for sound, Aaron Cannonn for his lighting, Leslie Ann Shepperd for her fight choreography and Carrie Hardin for her great array of props. For new companies, such as Prologue, the learning curve begins with productions like this. We can help them by watching them grow as an ensemble and they make it easy by giving us live theater for a little more than a movie. The beauty of Live Theater is that every performance is different than the last, so as the run continues, we should see this all begin to take shape.

“Patria Libre” will continue through  May 4th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets are a mere $15 and can be purchased at the door, but I suggest you do this online at www.brownpapertickets.com

To learn more about this company visit www.prologuetheatreco.org

To see what others say, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Patria Libre”

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