Teatro Vista has a new home. After 24 years, this, the largest not-for-profit Equity Latino theater company is no longer a Gypsy troupe. The have landed , in of all places, Lincoln Park in the Victory Gardens ( Biograph) Theater/upstairs in the Richard Christiansen Theater. This is a very intimate space and is perfect for their current production, the World Premiere of Martin Zimmerman’s “White Tie Ball”. This is a terse, 90 minute production cleverly staged by Artistic Director Edward Torres. The story is about two brothers, two Latino brothers, one who appears to be a true Latino and the other, blonde hair and blue eyed. What Zimmerman tackles is the differences between the brothers and the paths they have chosen. Edward ( a strong performance by Gabriel Ruiz) is brown skinned, well educated and on his political way to higher office in Arizona, where they were raised. Beto ( deftly handled by Nate Santana), the blonde, almost “white” appearing younger brother, fell into the gang scene as a teen ( after their father left them for greener pastures) and was convicted for armed robbery at the age of 19.
The play starts with the two brothers meeting after ten years as Beto is about to be paroled and move in with Edward. Their bonding is such that the true benefits are those of Edward as the large Latino population of Arizona is impressed with how this prosecutor is helping his felon brother to begin a new life. In fact, while Beto is “used” by Edward, it appears that Edward has even higher aspirations and will use his brother to attain his goals in any way possible. His mentor Spencer ( a strong character development by Jan Radcliff” who has political motives as well. She has power over Edward and while she attempts to get Beto into her thought process, he does not succumb.
As the story progresses, one of Beto’s old buddies, Jiminez ( played with just the right touch by the always reliable Marvin Quijada, who once again proves, the size of the role is not as important as the quality of the performance) has been accused of killing an off duty Latina police officer and Edward, in order to move up the ladder brings the matter to the Grand Jury for Murder, despite it being an “accidental shooting”. He tells Beto that he had no choice as it was political, but that he can rest easy as Jimenez will get a chance to reverse this at a later date. Trouble, is, do they have the time?
This brings us to the final scene where Edward, who is about to attend a “white tie affair” is confronted by his younger brother over the importance of their relationship- do they continue or go their separate ways? Can the relationship grow stronger faced with the aspirations of one brother over the ideals of the other? I do not want to give anything away as the final scenes of this story are telling as well as chilling and very , very realistic. Zimmerman, himself , a bilingual playwright may have seen some of this in his early days while growing up. I know that in my many years of spending time in the Latino community, I have met many young men who, because of their looks fell into a non-Latino category, and to prove they were what they were born, went deeper into the “gang” life. This is a story that might need a bit more development and could easily be converted into a two act play allowing us to learn a bit more about where they came from, why they chose the paths they did and what they will do in the years to follow.
The fact that Edward wants to help his community is wonderful, but can he pull it off? In particular, can he pull it off without angering his own people ( in this case, his own “blood”)?. While I felt the acting and character development was superior, I can only do a recommended because i found teh script to be a bit lacking. Collette Pollard’s set is unique in that it is easily converted from a prison visiting area, to different offices with merely the moving of a chair or table/desk. The rows of cardboard boxes were a bit distracting ( reminded me of “Cold Case” programs on TV) , but they were able to use the boxes to keep their props . Jesse Klug’s lighting was superior and the sound ( Mikhail Fiskel and Mikey Moran) and costumes by Christine Pascual are the finishing touches. I am happy to see that Teatro Vista has a new home, one that has comfortable seats, and great potential and am looking forward to the future of this exciting company.
“White Tie Ball” will continue at Victory Gardens Theater located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue through October 13th with a performance schedule as follows:
Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday at 8 p.m.
Sunday at 3 p.m.
Tickets are $25-$30 ( a bargain for live theater of this quality) and can be purchased by calling 773-871-3000, visiting the box office or online at www.victorygardens,org
To learn more about this talented vibrant company and what they are doing next, visit www.teatrovista.org where you can learn how to subscribe and about the new “LNTV! ( Late Night Teatro Vista).
To see what others are saying visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “White Tie ball”