Directed by Anthony Moseley
Produced by Collaboraction and Teatro Vista in association with The Goodman Theatre
At Goodman Theatre
Some Things Are Worth Waiting For
El Grito del Bronx, now in its world premiere at Goodman Theatre, has been in development for an unusually long time. The show, which was commissioned by The Public Theatre in New York in 2005, received workshops in New York, California and at Goodman Theatre’s Latino Theatre Festival as well as a staged reading at Teatro Vista. Collaboraction and Teatro Vista have been working on the premiere co-production for four years. In case you are wondering, all of that effort has paid off big time – in El Grito del Bronx, the two well-respected companies have one of their finest productions ever and Ms. Cruz has an American drama that is nothing shy of a masterwork.
El Grito del Bronx is a story about rage. It is set against the violent backdrop of a Bronx family tragedy in 1977 and the aftermath of those events 15 years later in a federal prison in Ohio and in a middle class apartment in Connecticut. The show explores how a gentle boy becomes a heartless killer and asks the question: “How different is that boy from everyone else?” Cruz’ plot transcends there-but-for-the-grace-of-god sentimentality and her dialogue authentically delves into how humans deal with grief, loss, fear and love. There is no fairy tale ending, but neither is there absolute destruction. Cruz’ answer is simply that we go on. It is a brave assertion that is both cathartic and compassionate.
Director Anthony Moseley has assembled a powerhouse of a cast for this production. Sandra Delgado leads the ensemble as Lulu, a young woman who carries the guilt of her brother’s violence inside. Her shame over her brother’s crimes, her guilt over her own innocent connection to those events, and her fear that she is just like him will not allow her to accept that she deserves ever to be happy. Juan Villa plays her adult brother, known is Papo, who is dying of AIDS on a federal death row in Ohio. Josh Odor is Ed, her Connecticut reporter boyfriend who wants only to marry her and lives to make her happy. The chemistry between Delgado and her two very different men creates empathy that allows the supporting roles to soar. The result is as fine an ensemble effort as you are likely to see for a long time to come.
Teatro Vista artistic director Eddie Torres is Lulu’s hammer wielding father José. You will hate him enough to…well, you get the point. Warren Levon is huge – and I don’t just mean that he is a big guy, which he certainly is – as the guy next door on death row. John Wilson and Jeremy Oase are a couple of gas station attendants whose lives crossed Papo’s at bad moments. Patrese McClain and Molly Reynolds are Sarah and Elizabeth, two every-mothers who have lost sons to violence. Their stories are so very different, but somehow eerily the same. The whole production is poetry with the action shifting seamlessly across time and location on one of the most creative and interesting sets I have seen in the wonderful little space at Goodman’s Owen Theatre. Kudos to set designer Regina Garcia for her amazing set and to director Moseley and lighting designer Jeremy Getz for knowing what to do with it.
If I haven’t already given you enough reason to see this show, there’s one more: The Driehaus Foundation money-back guarantee. The foundation wants to encourage audiences to support original works, so the offer is simple: If you do not like this show, they will give you your money back. I didn’t see any takers on opening night.
At Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL, www.GoodmanTheatre.org or 312-443-3800 tickets $18-$30 (Driehaus Foundation money back guarantee – if you don’t like the show you get your money back), Thur at 7:30 p.m.,Fri & Sat at 8:00, Sat & Sun matinee at 2:00, Thru Aug 2nd. 2 hours with one intermission.