Directed by Tara Mallen
Produced by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
and Teatro Vista
At Chicago Dramatist
Road trip mother/daughter work is a discovery journey for both
In a joint production, Rivendell Theatre Ensembe (a women-centered troupe) and Teatro Vista (Chicago’s largest Equity Latino troupe) have mounted Tony Award winner (for the book of Into The Heights) playwright Quiara Aalegria Hudes’ 26 Miles.
Director Tara Mallen, with a neat set (designed by Regina Garcia0 and smart lighting (by Diana Fairchild) has used a stylized theatrical mode to enhance the work during the many scene changes. Mallen has solved the blackout problem that plagues and slows down many shows. Its about style with a funny flare.
We meet Olivia (Ashley Neal), a 15 year old raised by her Jewish father and her step mother from hell. Her dad, Aaron (Keith Kupferer) is construction contractor who teaches Olivia about different kinds of wood. That is about all they communicate about. Olivia writes her own fiction magazine that is filled with wild fantasies. When is has a series of late night throw-ups, he dad is baffled and unable to help so Olivia calls he estranged mother whom she has not lived with in 8 years for help.
Mother, Beatriz (Sandra Matquez0 is a emotionally explosive Cuban-American ridden with guilt at having lost custody of Olivia. She has a rocky marriage with Manuel (Edward Torres), who reads too many self-help books.
When Beatriz gets Olivia’s frantic call, she rushes to help her daughter. Being a spontaneous soul, Beatriz quickly decides to take a road trip in order to see if she and Olivia can establish a relationship. Olivia, herself an adventurous sort, has a strong desire to see the buffalo in Montana.Off they go.
The two venture westward – a Jewish teen and an explosive Latina mother. This weird twosome has many moments of discovery that neither are prepared for. Ashley Neal plays Olivia with empathy to spare that, together with her strength of personality combine to thwart some of Beatriz’s zany antics. The result is a funny show with several unpredictable moments and several revealing scenes as the two lost souls search for the meaning of family. Can the two reconcile or is it too late? Sandra Marquez is precious as she nails the Latina humor and persona. Her honesty is contagious.
Thankfully, Hudes doesn’t resort to a sentimental after school TV special format, rather she packs the journey with realistic and character appropriate responses. This is a charming, moving and quite funny 90 minutes that garners hope that along the rode to life we can makes new worthy relationships. We can have fun along the way as do Olivia, Beatriz and the audience.
At Chicago Dramatist, 1105 w. Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL, call 773-334-7728