REVIEW: Lullaby (Teatro Luna)

 

A More Charming Than Frightful “Lullaby”

 

 

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Teatro Luna presents
   
Lullaby
  
Written by Diane Herrera
Directed by Maria Enriquez & Miranda Gonzalez
at Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
through October 17  | 
tickets: $15-$25  |  more info

Reviewed by Paige Listerud

So much of Teatro Luna’s current production reflects their collectivist approach to creating Latina-driven theater. Their program lists the all-female cast without designating their roles in Diane Herrera’s new play, Lullaby. Both playwright and producer Alex Meda emphasize Teatro Luna’s collective development process. “Writing is a lonely profession,” says Herrera in the notes, “With the love and support of these talented women, I was not alone.” As a play, Lullaby itself contains a strong family feeling. While drawing in plot devices from thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, its collection of stories still center on traditional women’s roles as lovers, mothers, and daughters. Framing each told tale is a mother in a hospital room, telling story after story to her comatose daughter, hospitalized from some unnamed accident.

Lullaby by Teatro Luna at Greenhouse Theater Center Chicago It’s a difficult and multilayered conceit to hold together, but directors Maria Enriquez and Miranda Gonzalez tautly and delicately sustain Lullaby’s translucent dramatic arc. Behind each story, however bizarre or funny, lies a mother’s never ending love and concern, even a desperate feeling of never being able to do enough or be enough for the ones she loves. The tales are plentiful—a woman continually strives to save her suicidal sister; a high-maintenance diva shows up at couples counseling with the robot boyfriend she created; a real Little Mermaid gives up on the love she sacrificed her community and family for; an overworked, unappreciated office temp struggles to turn around her shallow fellow employees—and many more.

Every tale migrates into the realm of fantasy, humor almost always lightens each story’s theme of lost love, lost opportunities, lost children and, ultimately, lost lives. Make no mistake: these Latina ladies are very funny—again and again their comic timing alone takes one by surprise. Their seamless incorporation of drama, dance movement and acrobatics in the final story totally seals the deal on the mother’s lonely vigil with her unconscious daughter.

The cast’s dexterous ability to shift from tale to tale, within the framework of the mother waiting for her daughter to reawaken, is probably the production’s greatest achievement. Herrera’s tales shift uneasily—but hardly frighten or horrify. At first, the introduction of a traditional harlequin figure at the start of Lullaby seems artsy and pretentious, but each reappearance of the harlequin sets the scene on edge, with peril suggested by the uncertainty of its presence.

If there is any drawback to Lullaby, it’s that its darkness often doesn’t go dark enough. Herrera’s writing almost seems afraid to go there, afraid to go to the point where the child is truly lost, the opportunity for love and a future is lost, and there is no bringing it back, no laughing it off, no hoping that it might be different. Much as I appreciate the playwright’s desire to create an almost eternal state of suspension for the audience, maintaining that effect, even to the end of the play, reduces the mother in the hospital room to a thin symbolic figure; not a mother we can deeply connect with. This is a woman we want to know, even if she is like every other mother in her desperate attempts to make her daughter revive. Her child is gone and may never come back. The agony of her personal nightmare must become ours.

   
   
Rating: ★★★
   
   

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Review: GL 2010 – Not Your Generic Latina (Teatro Luna)

Teatro Luna – Anything but generic!

  photo by Johnny Knight

   
Teatro Luna presents
      
GL 2010 – Not Your Generic Latina
  
Developed & Directed by Miranda Gonzalez
at
Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago (map)
through July 11  |  tickets: $15-$20  |  more info 

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

Teatro Luna is a great theatre company. Billing themselves as "Chicago’s all Latina theatre company," Teatro Luna brings Latina actresses, writers and directors together to collaboratively compose all original material. Their new show, GL 2010, is styled as a review, made up of a series of vignettes, songs, and movement pieces. GL stands photo by Johnny Knight for Generic Latina, and shares a name with Teatro Luna’s first production. Although the material is all new, it is generated by the same idea as the original: what does the phrase "Generic Latina" mean?

As the audience enters, they are met with a particularly noticeable pre-show soundtrack, a hodgepodge of electronica music and samples from what sounds like a particularly dark telenovela. The walls of the set are absolutely covered with Spanish-language posters for movies, bands and night clubs; as well as a graffiti-style stencils of Mexican wrestling masks, ice cream trucks and Virgin Marys. The show starts with a bang, when a red jump suited audience member flies out of her seat and plows onto the stage to perform a high energy rap about her Latina experience, denying that there is anything generic about her at all. This opening number is representative of Teatro Luna at its very best: controlled, focused energy exploding with the joy of performance. After this first opening number, a gang of three mothers of adult children take the stage, a vignette that will be replicated twice during the show. The three women come from different Spanish speaking countries and discuss their cultural differences, and their shared worries about their children. Teatro Luna always takes its time to explore as many angles of Latina life as possible. The three mothers are vessels through which the culture is examined externally: the writer/performers themselves look at a part of their culture that they are much to young to experience and explore it like curious children, eager to show their findings.

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GL 2010 is more reserved than the company’s previous shows. With a cast that welcomes a few new writer/performers, GL 2010 has the intellectual weight one expects from a Luna show, but comes off as emotionally guarded. Scenes are generated from autobiographical stories, which has given a raw, emotional edge to past shows like Lunaticas. It makes sense that GL 2010 would become more  intellectual than emotional: the premise of the show is to investigate what a Generic GL 2010_007Latina means, and to blow up that stereotype – and external struggle rather than an internal one.

There are some emotional highlights in GL 2010, however. Lauren Villegas‘ courtroom monologue is emotionally stirring and captivating, and the rap performances that act as a Greek Chorus in this show manage to both contain lots of thought-provoking information and have a warm emotional side. Teatro Luna is at its best during large, vibrant group scenes although some of the larger numbers in GL 2010 aren’t quite fully realized. An ode to the nightmarish act of female body waxing has the potential to be a major show stopper, but its viewpoint is too weak to be very ratable.

The women of Teatro Luna are a powerful force, and the work they put into their collaborative shows is evident in their product. GL 2010 isn’t a perfect show, but Teatro Luna is one of the coolest theater companies out there.

   
   
Rating: ★★½
 
 

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Theater openings and closings this week in Chicago

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show openings

 

Twas the Night Before Christmas Center for Performing Arts at Governors State

500 Clown Christmas North Central College 

American Stars in Concert for the Holidays Paramount Theatre

Civic Ballet’s The Nutcracker James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts

Icarus Lookingglass Theatre

It’s a Wonderful Life Improv Playhouse

The Klezmatics North Shore Center for the Performing Arts

The Nutcracker McAninch Arts Center

W is for Winter Prop Thtr

 

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show closings

1985 The Factory Theater (our review)

All the Fame of Lofty Deeds House Theatre  (our review)

Aunt Dan and Lemon BackStage Theatre Company

Beethoven, as I Knew Him Drury Lane Water Tower

Burlesque is More Annoyance Theatre

Carnival Nocturne – Storefront Theater  (our review)

Chad Morton’s TV Christmas Miracle Village Players Performing Arts Center

Cockettes: Christmas Spectacular Annoyance Theatre

Cold Dream Theatre

Cooperstown Theatre Seven of Chicago (our review)

The David Bowie Hepzikat Funky Velvet Flarney Solstice Spectacular Live…From Space! New Millenium Theatre

D-Cup Diatribes Gorilla Tango Theatre 

Democracy Eclipse Theatre (our review)

Faith Off Gorilla Tango Theatre

The Flaming Dames in Naughtier and Nice New Millenium Theatre

Florid Deveraux Does the Holidays Prop Thtr

Gift of the Magi EverGreen Theatre Ensemble

Gossamer Adventure Stage Chicago

Graceland Profiles Theatre 

Horrible Apollo Theatre (our review)

Hunky Dory The Factory Theater (our review)

Improv Children of the Corn 3 Corn Productions

Low Toner: Decision Quality Gorilla Tango Theatre

LUNATIC(a)S Teatro Luna (our review)

Perseus and Medusa: Or It’s All Greek to Me Piccolo Theatre

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Annoyance Theatre (our review)

Short Shorts Annoyance Theatre

A Silent Night: Grandma Got Run Over Without Healthcare Gorilla Tango Theatre

Souvenir Northlight Theatre (our review)

When She Danced TimeLine Theatre

Whining in the Windy City Royal George Theatre

Theater Thursday: Teatro Luna – LUNATIC(a)S

 

Thursday, December 17th

 

Teatro Luna presents:

LUNATIC(a)s

Developed and directed by Tanya Sarancho
at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave.

teatroluna lunaticasDon’t miss a "crazy-fun" evening with the ladies of Teatro Luna! Get your evening started with the show critics are calling "90 minutes of pure magic" (Steadstyle Chicago), and then, celebrate the kind of chica you are with one of our signature drinks after the show! Toast with our crisp Modern Girl Cocktail, try our Proper Latin Girl Cosmo or maybe you want to have one of our Bad Girl Shots! After watching Lunatic(a)s, you’ll KNOW exactly what kind of girl you are. Stay after the show for a dialogue with members of the cast and crew.Teatro Luna’s smash hit about women’s everyday insanity returns for a full remount- kicked up Luna-style and crazier than ever-with new stories and more musical numbers! Some adult language and a sprinkle of Spanglish.

Show begins at 7:30 p.m.

Reception and Discussion Following Show

TICKETS ONLY $25 

To purchase tickets, visit www.teatroluna.org. For more information please email boxoffice@teatroluna.org or call 773.878.5862

Review: Teatro Luna’s “Lunitic(a)s”

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Teatro Luna presents:

Lunitic(a)s

Directed & Developed by Tanya Saracho
thru December 20th (ticket info)

reviewed by Aggie Hewitt

Teatro Luna (Chicago’s only all Latina theatre company that produces a full season)’s Lunitic(a)s is a montage of scenes, vignettes and songs, which explore woman’s “everyday insanity” using the conceit of Mayan lunar mythology. It’s a great concept paired with a sophisticated execution that does not dwell in the academic or the poetic but manages to keep both feet planted firmly in the real. The piece features some of the most honest performing I have seen in the city, with talented and vibrant young actresses who rarely if ever take a misstep. Although the show has structural problems, stemming from cramming most of the darker pieces into the last third of the show, the play still maintains a grace and dignity that does not verge on the pretentious.

currently_21 A collaborative, original performance piece about the everyday struggles of womanhood is a risky undertaking today, just as it was in 2007 when Teatro Luna first staged Lunitic(a)s. The concept of the show has an academic feel to it; it is so empowering to it’s actresses, so quietly reverential of their lives and performances, it could pass for the culmination of freshman year at a conservatory; but the execution—writing, acting and directing is strictly professional. These women take themselves and this project seriously, and it pays off. The end result is an honest, simple and refreshing piece of theatre that has the courage to be truthful, introspective and serious when so much theater strives to stay one step ahead of potential criticism.

The play is clearly collaboratively written, with each piece tailor made for the performer. These performances are so vulnerable that you feel like you could climb on stage and join in. These women take the stage with all of the technical astuteness of a trained actor but with the relaxed self-interest of the most charming un-trained performer. They live each moment with deep and open energy that is exactly what you want to see from an all female theater company. Each actor brings her own unique worldview to the stage in this perfectly balanced ensemble. Director Tanya Saracho tempers the course, dry wit of show with graceful movements, slick blocking and crystal clear focus. Mac Vaughey’s lush and communicative lighting design is nicely paired with the elegantly conceived set designed by Dan Matthews.

header The piece is not without it’s problems. The vignettes seem to be arranged in order of darkness of subject, leaving the last third to drag and become a bit uncomfortable. By the end of the play, the audience has caught on to the possibility that a lot of these stories are autobiographical (partly because of their presentation and partly because it says so in the program) and the final third of the show is actually hard to watch. By the end of the play, the women seem broken: the worst parts of their lives have been on display. It’s so personal and dense, at times it feels more like therapy than art. Maybe it’s a choice, but it ends on a bleak view of womanhood. Which is not to say it is not affective. It’s a show that resonates and lingers for days after it’s been experienced. Go see Lunatic(a)s at Chicago Dramatists, you’d be crazy to miss it!

Rating: ★★★½

Non-Equity Jeff Awards Winners

Looks like there were a few big winners at the Non-Equity Jeff Awards given out last night, including 5 total awards given to Lifeline Theatre for The Island of Dr. Moreau. Another 4 awards were given to Theo Ubique for their intimate production of Cabaret.

Special Non-Equity Jeff Awards were given out to Raven Theatre’s founders – Michael Menendian and JoAnn Montemurro.

Congratulations to all!

 

Non-Equity Jeff Awards Winners

Production – Play
The Island of Dr. MoreauLifeline Theatre

Production – Musical
Jerry Springer – The OperaBailiwick Repertory Theatre
1776Signal Ensemble Theatre

Ensemble
MachosTeatro Luna

Director – Play
Greg KolackcolumbinusRaven Theatre

Director – Musical
Fred AnzevinoCabaretTheo Ubique Theatre Company i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

New Work
Teatro Luna & Coya PazMachos – Teatro Luna

New Adaptation
Robert KauzlaricThe Island of Dr. Moreau – Lifeline Theatre

Actress in a Principal Role – Musical
Elizabeth LanzaCan-CanCircle Theatre

Actress in a Principal Role – Play
Vanessa GreenwayThe Constant WifeGriffin Theatre Company

Actor in a Principal Role – Musical
Jeremy TragerCabaret – Theo Ubique Theatre Company i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

Actor in a Principal Role – Play
Sam WoottenGross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar WildeBohemian Theatre Ensemble

Actress in a Supporting Role – Musical
Danielle BrothersCabaret – Theo Ubique Theatre Co. i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

Actress in a Supporting Role – Play
Kathleen RuhlDolly West’s KitchenTimeLine Theatre Company

Actor in a Supporting Role – Musical
Jeremy RillJerry Springer – The Opera – Bailiwick Repertory Theatre

Actor in a Supporting Role – Play
Hans FleischmannIn a Dark Dark HouseProfiles Theatre
Ron WellsA Prayer for My DaughterMary-Arrchie Theatre Company

Scenic Design
Michael Menendian & Leif OlsenThe Night of the Iguana – Raven Theatre

Costume Design
Elizabeth Shaffer An Ideal Husband – Circle Theatre

Lighting Design
Kevin D. GawleyThe Island of Dr. Moreau – Lifeline Theatre

Sound Design
Stephen PtacekFaster – the side project

Choreography
Brenda DidierThe Life – Bohemian Theatre Ensemble

Original Incidental Music
Victoria DeIorioThe Island of Dr. Moreau – Lifeline Theatre
Gregor Mortis & Mikhail Fiksel A Lie of the MindStrawdog Theatre Company
Kevin O’Donnell The NutcrackerThe House Theatre of Chicago

Music Direction
Joshua Stephen Kartes Cabaret – Theo Ubique Theatre Co i/a/w Beverle Bloch & Michael James

Mask Design
Kimberly G. MorrisThe Island of Dr. Moreau – Lifeline Theatre