Recommended *** If you were a child, forced to leave your country as an even younger child, not knowing why this happened to your family, how would you cope? Many exiles have had to leave their country for political reasons, leaving behind other family members and lots of memories. In the premiere of Andrea Thome’s “Pinkolandia”, now on the stage at 16th Street Theater, that little gem in Berwyn ( along with three other theaters at the same time in other parts of the country), we are told such a story.
It is 1982. We are in Wisconsin and 12 year old Beny ( powerful performance by Maritza Cervantes) and her much younger sister, Gaby ( Hannah Gomez, who handles the pure comic touches in this play) have no idea, as they play in their “closet” exactly why they left Chile on 9/11/1973, but know their parents and their friends resent that they had to leave all of what was theirs behind. It is Beny, now reaching puberty, who realizes that where they “landed” is the country that backed those who changed their lives. In fact, she gets into a tough situation with her classmates and her teacher over this topic blaming the Unites States, Nixon and Reagen for her family losing everything.
This is a story about people! Directed by Ann Filmer, on a set designed by Joanna Iwanicka, that truly fills the small stage, we are treated to the intimacy of the so called “fly on the wall” that we always hear about. We watch the family and their friends adjust to their new lives, despite not being comfortable with what they are going through and we watch a young girl mature and learn about her people, her customs and how one can survive the ordeals that life puts them to the test with. Be prepared for some moments that will take shots at our country ( as seen , of course, by someone who evidently lived some of what we see) and know that there is a lot of Spanish in this production. There are no sub-titles or screens for us to follow, but, let me tell you, the story is easy to follow without the understanding of the use of Spanish. There are a few comic moments where only a portion of the audience understood enough to laugh. I would not mind them adding the translations on a screen to make the two hour theatrical experience a little stronger.
This is a small theater, with 50 seats and a narrow aisle that is used in several scenes, but the production team has made this a worthwhile experience with solid lighting ( Cat Wilson), costumes (Christine Pascual) props( Jesse Gaffney) and sound (Barry Bennet). It is the cast and their sheer energy that truly gets the audience INTO the feeling of what Thome is presenting:Miguel Nunez, Nate Whelden, Stephanie Diaz ( as the Mother) and Carlos Rogelio-Diaz (as the father) in addition to the wonderful work of Gomez and Cervantes that brings these characters to life, making us care about them and their journey to “the other side”.
“Pinkolandia” will continue through May 10th with performances as follows:
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m.
Tickets , open seating, are $18 ( just a bit more than a movie ticket for LIVE Theater) and can be purchased by visiting www.16thstreettheater.org. For info call 708-795-6704
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Pinkolandia”