Sunday, October 13, 2019


Argentina is one of those South American countries that have always made me think of the pampas and cowboys in flared gaucho pants wearing little black hats... slinging bolos that are used to capture critters to subdue them.  Looking at a map of South America, well below Brazil,  Argentina slightly resembles a caricature of Richard Nixon. Or a sea horse.   Stephanie Alison Walker's  "The Abuelas" presents the story of political upheaval in that country and the search for disappeared children.  

It's a frigid day in Chicago. On Edward E. Haynes, Jr.'s beautiful set, we feel and experience the raging "ocean" of Lake Michigan with Gabriela (Luisina Quarleri) in silhouette, dancing madly while playing her cello. 
Luisina Quarleri
Photo by Jenny Graham
The crashing of the winter waves and her mad attack of the instrument foreshadow a story that evolves from a warm light comedy to the angst and rancor of secrets kept: secrets revealed and the consequences of how the past, when given the opportunity, informs the present and then, the future.  

Initially, Walker's powerful polemic reveals the love story of Gabriela and Marty (Seamus Deaver) who are living what appears to be a full and  artistic life. They care for their new son with the help an abuela (grandmother), Denise Blasor as Soledad. Soledad is  Gabriela's Argentine madre who came for a short visit and stayed as a caretaker.  Gabriela is the first woman to chair cello for the Chicago Symphony and Marty is an up and coming architect prepared to break the rules for art in commercial architectural design. 

We bounce along with exposition that reveals a bit of Argentina, Soledad behaving like a typical mother-in-law as the family prepares to celebrate her birthday.  Ever the drama queen,  Blasor brings the caricature to life with good humor. 

The tenor of the story begins to change as César (David DeSantos), an Argentinian who has befriended Gabriela, shows up with an unexpected guest, Carolina (Irene De Bari). Carolina emotionally gushes over the beautiful Gabriela. Why DeSantos has opted for volume blaring past ten when the rest of the cast is so much more subdued is a mystery. His shouted lines set the audience back in our seats as he careened through a  mixed bag of revelations that set the story on an awkward journey. 

The details of "The Disappeared" in Argentina as the "dirty war" comes into play are revealed as the final polemic, enhanced by Gabriela's nightmare memories are played out by Carolina Montenegro as Belén, writhing in pain,  reflecting the ravages of the dirty war.   
Adam R. Macias's perfect projections enhance and strong performances by the cast, reveal a story that sends Gabriela's life in an unexpected direction. It mostly plays well.  DeSanto's bombastic volume and over the top performance seems either totally out of place or the rest of the cast was reluctant to broadcast what seems to show in the script as more subtle exposition is on director Andi Chapman.  How she allowed this actor to overwhelm the scenes that he is prominent in might be a call for some attention.  An audience stays 'in' a performance when the players are all in the same play at the same time. This actor may have imagined himself at the Pantages where one projects to an audience of three thousand? 

The Abuelas 
by Stephanie Alison Walker
Antaeus Theatre Company
Kiki & David Gindler 
Performing Arts Center
110 East Broadway
Glendale, CA 91205

Friday Oct. 11 (opening), Oct. 18, Oct. 25, Nov.15 (dark Nov. 1, Nov. 8, Nov. 22)
Saturdays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 5 (preview), Oct. 12, Oct. 19, Oct. 26, Nov.16 (dark Nov. 2, Nov. 9, Nov. 23)
Sundays at 2 p.m.: Oct. 6 (preview), Oct. 13, Oct. 20, Oct. 27, Nov. 10, Nov. 24 (dark Nov. 3, Nov. 17)
Mondays at 8 p.m.: Oct. 21, Oct. 28, Nov, 4, Nov. 11, Nov. 25 (dark Oct. 14, Nov. 4, Nov.18)
Tickets and Information: 
(818) 506-1983


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