By Jose Rivera
Directed by Madrid St. Angelo
Collaborative Director Juan Castaneda
Produced by Urban Theater Company
At Steppemwolf Theatre as part of their
2nd Annual Garage Rep series
“If you want to fight with existence, go for it. If you want to scream, knock yourself out. Just remember that your words, all your words, go out to the universe to be recycled… Like Rain, like some ecology of the spirit.” -the gatekeeper
…What would happen if you died today?
…The idea of life after death…what happens?
…Where do we go?
Questions posed by Jose Rivera’s For An Old Century
What do you do with a book of poetry if your determined to make a stage play out of it? Well, Madrid St. Angelo and Juan Castaneda together with Esteban Andres Cruz (movement director) and Liviu Pasare (video design) have created an eerie atmosphere that finds 18 lost souls being coordinated by a gatekeeper (angel?). The group is in a waiting room (purgatory?) for the afterlife’s next step. They desperately want their dreamscape to include their story; they speak their thoughts through poignant, hilarious, angst-ridden and emotionally-wrenching monologues.
The result becomes a stirringly beautiful and powerful work of stage art that quickly engages us and keeps us thrilled throughout the 85 minute journey. Sonnets For An Old Century is an ode to the foibles, hopes and dreams of the humans told by a group of younger folks devoid of life prematurely. This platform is the last chance for each of the 18 to tell their story. And do they do that!
The cast includes: Hank Hilbert, Mike Cherry, Rashaad Hall, Sojourner Wright, Dru Smith, Marvin Quijada, Christian Blackburn, Alex Polcyn, Jennifer Walls, Whitney Hayes, Paloma Nozicka, Gabriela Mayorga, Marilyn Camacho, Shannon Matesky, Gino Marconi, Megann Tabor, Phillip Jones, Amrita Dhaliwal, and Arturo Soria. These gifted talents strut their stuff demonstrating their acting abilities. I’d advise casting directors to see Sonnets to witness a fine group of non-Equity actors. You’ll be impressed!
It all begins with the fluidly lyrical writing by Jose Rivera. He moves from topics and personalities with a terrific grasp for language and colorful imagery that can be funny, wrenching, bitter and/or brutally honest as he lets his characters speak their minds. Rivera aptly depicts each individual so vividly that he demonstrates his keen eye for individuals. The assortment of characters, who mostly died prematurely, are a melting pot of urban Latinos, white and black, male and female characters that are a microcosm of today’s society.
The stories vary greatly; from the sex exploits of the group to the poignant stories of individual uniqueness, we empathize with their honesty and frankness. Hank Hilbert’s monologue about his life as a “film Stud” is wrenching. Marylin Camacho’s hilarious speech tells of her 16 children and how she so easily squirts out each child effortlessly was a hoot! Christian Blackburn’s truthful take on his life and Arturo Soria’s speech about his body being a book are among the most powerful monologues in the show.
Sonnets For An Old Century is a stylish soundscape that brings Jose Rivera’s lyrical poetry to life as a voice for folks to have their say before its too late. Along the way, audiences are treated to a wonderful moving theatrical experience. The creatives at Urban Theater Company sure are marvelous storytellers. This theater company is having a positive impact on the Chicago theatre scene. See this show and you’ll know why.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 4, 2011
For full show information, check out the Sonnets For An Old Century page at Theatre In Chicago.