REVIEWSREVIEWS BYTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

White Tie Ball


By Martin Zimmermanteatro vista

Directed by Edward Torres

Produced by Teatro Vista

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater

Compelling look at the upward social mobility of Latinos  in America

It sure takes more than looks to sort out ethnicity in Martin Zimmerman’s world premiers drama, White Tie Ball, now playing in the Victory Gardens theater produced by Teatro Vista. We meet Edward ( Gabriel Ruiz), a tall dark-skinned  Latino man impeccability dressed  as he waits for his baby brother, Beto (Nate Santana), a blond, blue-eyed light-skinned man with several tattoos. Beto is leaving prison after serving ten years for armed robbery in Arizona. The two are brothers.

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The  siblings have a tense reunion after no contact during Beto’s incarceration. Does Edward want to help Beto or does he need to neutralize the effects of having a criminal brother on his chances to become the elected county prosecutor? After some tension, the brothers unite for mutual benefit; Beto gets a job and a place to stay while Edward get his brother back and neutralizes a source of embarrassment.

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When Arizona Attorney General Spencer (Jan Radcliff) takes Edward under her wing, he realizes that he could move up in Arizona politics as, perhaps, the next Attorney General of Arizona. As the first Latino to hold such an office, he could help Latino’s get the justice they deserve.  But when a female cop gets shot by a Latino under questionable circumstances, Edward yields to the “law-and-order'” sentiment and seeks the death penalty. Things are rolling Edward’s way until Beto reveals that he witnessed the cop shooting from his car as he was about to visit the shooter, Jimenez (Marvin Quijada) and old gang friend of  Bets from back in the day. Beto saw that the cop rushed into the house with warning or announcing her office and Jimenez, fearing for his life, shot the intruder before he realized who she was. (The office had a spotty record of past police procedural violations.)

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The consequences of this news impacts both brothers. If known, Beto violated his parole and wound be back in prison.  And if he went public with this information, Edward would be responsible for sending his brother back to prison and he would appear to soft on crime by reducing the charges toward Jimenez.

As the brothers argued the consequences, Edward figures out a way for Jimenez to beat the death penalty. They agree to keep the revelation secret for the personal and societal  common good.  This puts extreme pressure on the relationship between the brothers as both try to justify their actions. The scene where Edward tries to get Jimenez to cooperate is powerful and quite moving.

Zimmerman’s script deftly demonstrates the moral and emotional dilemmas where family values, ethnic mores collide with moral principles.  Without saying more, let me state that the ending of this 85 minute drama leaves the resolution in question. The actions of one of the brothers was unrealistic. See this show to find out more. Nata Santana and Gabriel Ruiz gave particularly strong performances. Cultural identity defines actions or does it?  This show comments on that very distinction.


Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: September 10, 2013

For more info checkout the White Tie Ball page at

At the Victory Gardens Biograph upstairs theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000,, tickets $25 – $30,  Thursdays & Fridays at 7;30 pm, Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 3pm, running time is 85 minutes without intermission, through October 13, 2013

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