Monday, November 23, 2015

Boyle Heights by Josefina López

L - R Brenda Perez and Karina Bustillos

By Joe Straw

“This isn’t heaven but it is my home.” - Dalia

The road to Boyle Height from the Westside is not a tough one.  Eating is important for some and there is enough time to stop for a bite.  And then it’s onto the 10 Freeway, which mysteriously turns into the 5 Freeway.

Caught in thick traffic, moving too far over to the right lane, and after a quick miss-directed instruction, I swerve off the freeway on to Boyle Avenue and immediately know this is not the street I wanted to exit. 

But I make a crazy left and see a part of Boyle Heights I have not experienced.  The view is pleasant as I progress to 1st Street, and then a sweet east for a few moments in almost no traffic.  An agreeable swerve into an empty parking meter, and voilà, the theatre stands waiting, only a few yards away. 

(And if you can’t find a place out front, there’s always free parking behind city offices right around the corner.)

I’ve been to a number of shows at Casa 0101 and each time I get a tingling sensation similar to the anticipation of going home, of a light from the kitchen, coffee on, and smell of flaky buttered biscuits.

And there she sits, Casa 0101, a small lighthouse beacon in Boyle Heights, the light from art figuratively streams out of the glass doors, and out onto the street.  Looking up, I noticed the streetlights flickering, a spark flashing on life’s faces.  And the passing smiles are from patrons anticipating the theatre. Surely, Casa 0101 is now the bedrock, the light, and the draw of life into the community.  

Boyle Heights, written by Josefina López and marvelously directed by Edward Padilla, is a feel-good comedy about coming home, going home, and finding home. And it is just in time for the holidays, that feeling of togetherness, and being home without the accouterments of the holiday trappings this time of year.

The play’s journey to Boyle Heights starts in Mexico and told by the writer, the conveyor of the truth, as she knows it.  It is a beautiful story of a beginning without an end and an end for a new beginning.

Dalia (Brenda Perez) knows.  She takes a moment and meticulously creates a storied event.  She is a logophile, a lover of words, as long as the words ring true and pure, she has no problem writing them in her notebook. There is a certain level of detachment when the words on the page sting, but she is a poet, and words have their place.  

“I will return when I have something to give back.” - Dalia

And Dalia, with suitcase in tow, is home now.  It is the broken end of another relationship. Her heart is not entirely frangible; she takes the end in stride.  But, after twenty-something failed relationships, which her relatives are happy to count one by one, she is back home, safe and sound.

Daila’s parents, Ruben (Javier Ronceros) and Carmela (Yolanda Gonzales), are still surviving Boyle Heights but Ruben, soon to be retired at the age of 62, wants to move back to Mexico, to a simpler life where the roses don’t talk back to him or his wife and kids either, for that matter. But Carmela doesn’t want to leave, she is happy with the home they have created.  

Sitting on the porch, pondering her next move into the house, Dalia observes the stars, contemplating current events, and recounting stories of how all of this came to be. And looking back on it all, history keeps repeating itself in this family.

Rosana (Karina Bustillos), the oldest daughter, is married and lives in the suburbs with her non-adventurous husband, Jaime (Felix Hernandez), a man who likes drinking, remodeling his kitchen, and flirting a little too much.

“My wife has a crazy sister.” - Jaime

Ernie (Erick Chajon), the slightly misguided son who wanders in and out confused about events of the household, can only scratch the back of his head and move on.

Meanwhile Margie (Delmi Gaitan), the youngest sister, has a boyfriend, Juan (Juan De La Cruz).   She doesn’t allow him to enter the house through the front door.  That implies too much formality and too much of a relationship.  She prefers Juan to come in the back way.

Outside on her roof, Dalia stares into the open skies and scratches the empyreal archives into her notebook tracking the heavenly moments which others might regard as mundane, searching for the special words for family and home while thinking about the man of her dreams. 

And, with that said, in steps Chava (Amador Plascencia), a man, the man, slightly inconnu, possibly by forgotten features that have been slightly altered by time, and words. 

L - R Yolanda Gonzalez, Brenda Perez, Javier Ronceros, Erick Chajon, Felix Hernandez

Karina Bustillos creates an extremely satisfying character in Rosana, a woman who wants more out of life than her husband can provide. Rosana sees home as someplace to get away from and I think it’s all in the matter of tasting life and coming back to appreciate home all the more. Bustillos is stunning on stage, her craft is not visible, and her movements, from one part of the stage to the other, are very specific.

Erick Chajon, as Ernie – the younger brother, has a very nice appeal on stage.  This is an interesting character but one that appears to be a follower and happy to go along with his parents and others.  But those choices chosen are generally not as successful. Chajon should employ a stronger objective in the character. Also, more work needs to be done on his voice, which falls to the wayside from time to time.  

Juan De La Cruz is Juan, a character that has a hard time standing up for what he believes in, like coming in through the front door. His conflict should be as great as his love.  

Delmi Gaitan, as Margie – the younger sister, has reasons for not letting her boyfriend come into the front of the house.  Yes, it’s there in the writing, but more could be made of her reasons and the physical actions of sneaking him into the back.

Yolanda Gonzalez is quite amusing as Carmela, Dalia’s mom. And she could help her character by trying a little harder to keep her husband from leaving.

Felix Hernandez plays Jaime, Rosana’s mixed-up husband.  Hernandez has a very nice presence on stage.  Jaime can be overbearing and loud just to get his point across.  It is hard feeling sympathy for a character that berates his partner.  Hernandez needs to find a balance for the triads on stage, a reason for feeling the way he feels.  The verbal abuse of the character comes off very badly. That aside Hernandez is very appealing on stage.

Brenda Perez does an incredible job as Dalia.  Dalia, the poet, and observer of nature, is a creator of life through words.  It is necessary for her to experience life and if it takes 21 boyfriends, so be it. She cannot ponder what others think about her, her manner of dress, and her roads taken, she can only absorb life. Perez captures the character and her work is marvelous.

Amador Plascencia is Chava, Dalia’s love interest. If mural art were his only interest, he probably wouldn’t have gotten into trouble. Chava is a kind of character that spreads his ideas of art to the world.  And he has an aura, a sparkle in his eyes, of someone who is not long for this world.  Plascencia does a remarkable job with this character.

Javier Ronceros is quite amusing as Ruben, the dad. Ronceros’s craft is marvelous, his intentions are clear, and his actions on stage show a splendid attention to detail.  He has also created a carefully crafted character.  And it is the small moments, of standing by the door just listening to the sound of his family in his home, that makes his performance so complete.   Ronceros also creates a marvelous relationship with all of his children.  Seeing this kind of acting keeps me coming back to the theatre for more.  

Edward Padilla, the director, has done a marvelous job with the actors, some who are members of the community, with little acting skills.  But for all involved, it is a wonderful showcase.  The opening is fantastic with only the frame of the house on view and then, in the time continuum; the inhabitants add their color to the home. This symbolism goes a long way. Padilla shows us how the home is an important to the structure of the family.

Boyle Heights is one of Josefina López’s finest work of art.  In this family, we see the makeup of a normal Mexican American family, how similar they are to each other, and how the art translates to Dalia’s story. The story is a family in love (not that they would ever mention that to each other) and despite their differences; it is a story of home.  And this is a marvelous homecoming, starting with the end of a relationship, and the start of a new beginning.

Emmanuel Deleage and Josefina López are also the Producers.

The Scenic Design by Cesar Holguin was exquisite and worked effectively for the actors.

Also, as an added benefit, in “The Jean Deleage Gallery” there is a photo exhibit on “Roots of the Eastside Sound 1955 – 1965 which I enjoyed.  

Other members of the crew are as follows:

Sohail e. Najafi – Lighting Design
Abel Alvarado – Costume Design
Crispy Carrillo – Stage Manager
Angel Galvan – Asst. Stage Manager
Jorge Villaneuva – Technical Operator  

Run! Run! Run!  And grab a homebody, someone who doesn’t like to get out much, and rediscover the word “home”.

Through December 20, 2015. 

Reservations:  323-263-7684  

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