Directed by Ron OJ Parson
Produced by Teatro Vista
At the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theatre, Chicago
Power acting fuels story of youth violent and the power of words to change a life
William Mastrosimone’s 1985 tale of violence and the quest for personal redemption, Tamer of Horses, is still, unfortunately, relevant in 2014. Teatro Vista has mounted a fantastically powerful drama fueled by extraordinary performances and tight flowing direction by Ron OH Parson.
The set depicts a barn complete with hay and farm implements (design by Brain Sidney Bembridge). As the play opens, we see a young male Latino street thug with head band and sagging pants who is cut-up and shivering as he seeks refuge in a rural New Jersey farm. Hector (Joshua Torrez) finds a blanket and curls-up in a corner. Ty (Juan Villa), the farm owner, finds Hector asleep and fearfully wakes him with a pitchfork. After a violent confrontation, Hector give up his knife and Ty put his weapon down as Georgiane (Sari Sanchez), Ty’s wife enters the barn and notices that Hector has cuts from barbed wire. The hostile street punk is defiant and defensive. This boastful foul-mouthed youth speaks urban ghetto lingo with sprinklings of rapper poetry. He is a combination of immature illiterate and street thug whose frustrations are acted out through violence and witty raw rhymes.
Ty and Georgiane are two thirty-somethings, both teachers and childless. Georgiane has sympathy yet she demands respect from the street thug. Ty sees his lost brother in the punk criminal Hector and the teacher instincts in both Ty and Georgiane allow them to try to help this lost soul before he becomes a total lost cause. Filled with dark street humor, Joshua Torrez gave one of the finest performances seen on a Chicago stage all year as the sociopath gang banger.
Juan Francisco Villa also renders a terrific performance as the frustrated classical literature teacher who was down-sized from a private pref school. His passion is teaching the classics, like Homer’s The Iliad in the hope that some of his students will be inspired to change the world through the effects of classic literature. Since he has not ever found a truly inspired student, he is a discouraged mentor in search of an ideal student.
Ty strikes a deal with Hector. The youth must follow Ty’s rules, be a ‘gentleman’ to Georgiane, do farm chores, and learn to read in order to live in the barn and be feed in a refuge from the authorities after he violently ran away from a youth detention center.
Much of the Tamer of Horses consists of Hector and TY bonding through their exchanges. Hector shows Ty how he and his crew stack and rob folks on the subway and Ty reads and makes the case for reading and for the power of words to communicate meanings and emotions as an essential life skill that Hector desperately needs. The two struggle, fight , and slowly Ty is getting through to Hector. That process is played out through several powerfully written and magnificently present monologues. Ty’s on the power of words and Hector’s description of The Iliad in a fully streetwise version was priceless.
This wonderful drama has many superb moments as we quietly cheer for Hector to get that little voice that tells him when he is doing wrong through Ty’s instilling him with a conscience. The power of words, indeed, works like Homer’s The Iliad actually inspire Hector’s sense of right. Has Ty finally found his ideal student and is Hector’s redemption real? See this show to how Mastrosimone resolves all this.
Tamer of Horses is a wonderful journey as the criminal world of violent youth confronts two souls as the only folks who ever cares for the thug. Is having someone who cares for you enough to straighten out a floundering youth? Tamer of Horses leaves audiences wondering but with a glimmer of hope. Don’t miss this play! Torrez and Villa are sensational.
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For more info checkout the Tamer of Horses page at theatreinchicago.com
At the Victory Gardens Biograph Christiansen Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000, www.teatrovista.org, tickets $25 – $30, Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 7:0 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2hours, 15 minutes with intermission,through December 14, 2014