Our Lady of the Underpass

By Tanya Sarachoour lady of the underpass

Directed by Sandra Marquez

Produced by 16th Street Theater

& Teatro Vista, theatre with a view

Moving, well acted remount is worth visiting

“These Catholics,” a jogger shouts, “They’re like, ‘Look at my grilled cheese! It’s Jesus! Call a press conference!”

16th Street Theater and Teatro Vista smartly remounted a terrific play that I missed the first time around.  Too bad for me since Our Lady of the Underpass is a wonderful theatrical event.

The remount of the critically-acclaimed Jeff-Nominated 2009 production takes place at the 5-year anniversary of the Holy sighting under the bridge. The same week that Rome announced a new Pope, a woman driving home from work spotted an image of the Virgin Mary on a discolored wall of the Fullerton Avenue underpass. Inspired by real life interviews, playwright Tanya Saracho renders the voices of those who were drawn to that wall, exploring issues of faith and desire in present day Chicago.

our ladyof the underpass

Saracho’s writing is rich in character development and motivation. Filled with bittersweet humor and insights int the nature of spiritualism and personal faith, Our Lady of the Underpass complete us much like the ‘vision’ that drew so many.

Told in a series of monologues, we meet an assortment of visitors to the visionary sighting icon under the Fullerton Avenue underpass in Chicago.

Tony, The Deacon (Gabriel Juan Ruiz in a rivetingly scary performance of a religious psychopath) is the self-appointed  guide to the make-shift shrine. Ruiz emerges as a lunatic in a terrific truthful performance.

Charin Alvarez is subtle effective as Ofelia, a lonely maiden from Mexico and a factory worker and guardian of a handicapped boy. Alverez is deeply moving here.

Chris Cantelmi, as Matt, the jogger who has a most cynical view of religion and worship  and ethnic minorities. His massive ego is nicely presented by Cantelmi.

our ladyof the underpass

Amanda Powell, as Magdalena, the foul-mouthed Polish-American nurse who transports  her mother to worship at the shrine.  Her bitterness is strongly is presented.

Suzetter Mayobre plays the emotionally distraught Terri who  arrives to ask for help from her sexually deranged fiance.  The crude humor presented is a hoot.

Lastly, we meet Rosie Newton’s Mrs. Shriver, the Jewish Liberal, who feels unfulfilled as a woman due to her not having a child.

The amazingly honest performances, rich in nuance and depth, make Our Lady of the Underpass a most enticing and wholly engaging theatrical work. Brian Sidney Bembridge’s set and Jess Klug and Mac Vaughey’s vivid lighting give an aura that sure could be an portrait of a holy woman.  See this well written and terrifically acted drama. It’ll test your faith.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

At 16th Street Theatre, 6420 16th Street, Berwyn, IL, call 708-795-6704, www.16thstreettheater.org, Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 5 and 8 pm, running time is 95 minutes without intermission.