Produced by: TheatreWorks
Directed by: Giovanna Sardelli
Featuring: Priscilla Lopez, Michael Rosen, Eddie Gutierrez, Michelle Cabinian and Leo Ash Evens
When: January 16 through February 10, 2013. 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, and 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, California
Tickets: $23-$73 (savings available for students, educators, and seniors). Call 650-463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.
Read John Orr's interview of director Giovanna Sardelli.
Read Robert Hurwitt's review of "Somewhere" in the San Francisco Chronicle.
Read Karen D'Souza's review of "Somewhere" in the San Jose Mercury News.
a dance of heartbreak
Matthew Lopez' play "Somewhere," beautifully staged by TheatreWorks in Mountain View, is an epic ode to the battle between art and paying the bills.
Here we have the Candelaria family, in a 1959 New York City tenement. Inez the mother, the brothers Alejandro and Francisco, and daughter Rebecca. They all love show business, they all love to dance. The father, Pepe, himself a handsome singer, is gone, but sends letters professing his love, devotion and desire to return.
Inez works as a theater usher and as a waitress; Jandro works 80 hours a week at a grocery store. The younger kids work some, but mostly go to school, Cisco to be an actor, and Bec to ballet school, with eyes on a Broadway career.
If Inez gets cranky, someone asks her about how it went that day as she ushered for the show "West Side Story." She is rapturous about what she has seen, and soon the entire family is dancing around their careworn and threadbare furniture.
Everybody, that is, except Alejandro, who at most will only dance a few steps before rushing back to the kitchen to cook dinner, or to a corner to simmer in frustration.
Which is ironic. Because while all the Candelarias are good dancers, the handsome Alejandro is the best. He is special. Everyone tells him, again and again, to return to auditioning for shows. As a child, he'd been on Broadway with Yul Brynner, in "The King and I." But - another irony - he had not been cast for "West Side Story," even though he is actually Puerto Rican, unlike many of the actors playing Puerto Ricans in that musical.
But he is also the one who has most taken on the responsibility of keeping the family together, of making sure his younger brother and sister can continue to pursue their show-business dreams.
This play hinges on the actor/dancer who plays Alejandro being brilliant. "Very good" would not be enough.
In Michael Rosen, TheatreWorks found "brilliant."
In those family dancing scenes, early on, we only get to see Jandro dance a few steps at a time. But those few steps are very, very impressive. The guy is a dancer to his marrow. He doesn't just walk through a door, he enters as a dancer - a precise turn, step, step - and every movement around the stage, just circling a table or actually dancing with someone, is a thing of beauty.
This business of dance telling the story is important. Pay attention to it. If you come to the theater expecting everything to be explained in dialogue, you're going to miss the meaning of this show. Especially the story of Alejandro and his broken dreams.
Each of the other Candelarias has a fantasy scene wherein they dance a solo. Multiple Tony-winner Priscilla Lopez as Inez dances to her memory of her departed Pepe, spraying the room with his cologne and holding his photograph. Michelle Cabinian, who is vibrant and exciting as Bec, puts a napkin on her head as an imagined fancy hat as she dances her dream of Broadway stardom. Eddie Gutierrez, who is excellent and fun as Cisco, dances his dream of Hollywood stardom - in a performance enlivened by brilliant sound design by Jeremy J. Lee, who provides, among other things, the sound of spurs jingle-jangling across the stage as Cisco is a Western hero.
But, no dream for Alejandro, even as each little bit we see of Rosen as Jandro just makes us want even more to see him dance.
But as he tells longtime family Jamie (a charming, strong performance by Leo Ash Evens), "But why are my dreams more important than Cisco's or Rebecca's? I work hard so that they will have a chance. Doesn't that count for something?"
When his solo finally comes, our desire to see it has built to an almost unbearable pitch. But his is not a happy dance of joy and love; his is a dance of anger and frustration.
His performance of Greg Graham's choreography is a scream and a cry put to movement. And everything else goes away, and our only wish is that the stage were actually larger, so he would have more room to exorcise his demons and his hurt. Rosen, whose background includes nine years at the School of the American Ballet (including featured roles with the New York City Ballet) and appearing on Broadway in a revival of "West Side Story," is not only an excellent actor, he is an excellent dancer - absolutely vital to this play.
I walked out wishing there had been a happier ending for Alejandro. I like happy endings. And the rest of the family does get their happy endings. But this play - loosely based on the life of Matthew Lopez' aunt, Priscilla Lopez - is not a fairy tale; it is an epic in modified classic form, reflecting the hard and true lives of creative people.
"Somewhere" is also another example of the great teamwork of TheatreWorks. Artistic Director Robert Kelley brought together another excellent team, starting with director Giovanna Sardelli, who makes sure the cast and crew deliver every nuance of the script. I already mentioned Lee's sound design, which is extraordinary. Andrea Bechert's sets are great theater pieces - for Act I, the tenement apartment is set back at right angles, allowing some depth of movement and making the placement of the fire escape visible to every seat in the house. The entire thing is overhung with laundry lines from other tenements and great walls of bricks. By comparison, the housing project they move to in Act II is almost sterile, which also tells a story. Cathleen Edwards' costumes set the time frame.
This play is filled with ironies, including that the family that loves show business is displaced to make room for New York's Lincoln Center. But at its heart it is a story of familial love and incredible sacrifice. A fine job by Mr. Lopez.