Key Reviews: ‘Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy’

The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program is back for our third year, and with a new format! This year’s cohort: Ada Alozie, Alisa Boland, Anyah Royale Akanni,  Hannah Antman, Mariah Schultz, and Yiwen Wu. The third show of our session was Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy produced by Teatro Vista at The Den Theatre. Read selections from each critic below, and click through to their author profiles to read the full critique and learn more about them! The Key is co-facilitated by Regina Victor and Oliver Sava. 

Hannah Antman: “Directors Bruce and Gutierrez landed some evocative and heartfelt moments. Hope is a true period piece, in the sense that it showcases the past in order to illuminate something about our world today. I found Betty’s deep fear of the atomic bomb to be especially prescient, reflecting many young people’s current fears about climate change – in 1961 or 2019, being a teenager comes with the threat of the world ending. As an extension of that fear, Betty (excellently portrayed by Caraballo), has a series of imagined phone calls between herself and JFK (and later, Fidel Castro). I found these fantasy phone calls to be particularly compelling, and I wish the rest of the play delved as deep in its theatrical risk-taking.” –  Read Hannah Antman’s full critique and learn more about the author! 

Janyce Caraballo as Betty in Teatro Vista’s Midwest premiere of Hope: Part II of A Mexican Trilogy by Evelina Fernández. Photo credit: Joel Maisonet.

Ada Alozie:As part of the 3rd Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, Teatro Vista presents Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy, co-directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce and Ricardo Gutiérrez. The Bookspan of Den Theatre is transformed in to a late 50s/early 60s starter home flanked by brown- not white- wooden fences. The visual aesthetic of the set and costuming grounded me in the world of the play. José Manuel Díaz-Soto, the set designer, alongside the costume designer, Sanja Manakoski, succeed in realizing the patterns and color palette of the time period. The long rockabilly skirts and button-down blouses worn by the youthful and on-trend Betty, played by Janyce Caraballo, contrasts starkly with the hip-hugging capris and polo blouses worn by the headstrong eldest sister, Gina (Ayssette Muñoz). Even the mother, Elena’s (Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel) outfits with her collared suburbia dresses are thoughtful choices meant to highlight the values and ideals of the women of the Morales family. ” – Read Ada Alozie’s full critique and learn more about the author! 

Anyah Royale Akanni: “Playwright Evelina Fernández layers the characters’ stories in Hope amid the Cuban missile crisis. Directors Ricardo Gutierrez and Cheryl Lynn Bruce through their sharp visions heightened the retellings through the lens of a sitcom, dancing from scene to scene. With its playful direction and the addition of rock music, the very real grimness of the world is highly contrasted with a Brady Bunch type of joviality, crafted by the lighting and projections of Joe Burke. Set designer Jose Manuel Diaz Soto, makes interesting use of the depth of the space: A home whose layers move backwards from us like adding books to a shelf, effectively putting the most valuable rooms of the daughters at the forefront, and the parents’ room distant but not hidden.” – Read Anyah Royale Akanni’s full critique and learn more about the author! 

Mariah Schultz: “The kids aren’t alright in Teatro Vista’s Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy, and the adults aren’t faring much better. Playing at The Den Theatre as part of Chicago’s Destinos festival, artistic director Ricardo Gutiérrez and Cheryl Lynn Bruce helm a layered tale centering on the woes and wants of the Morales family in 1961 Phoenix, AZ. Evelina Fernández weaves many threads in crafting this family tapestry that loosens even as it struggles to sustain its fabric.” – Read Mariah Schultz’s full critique and learn more about the author!

Yiwen Wu:Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam War, and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Amidst the political turbulence of early 1960s, Evelina Fernández’s Hope: Part II of A Mexican Trilogy finds its anchor at a Mexican American household, where a mother, with the support of her four children, fights her own war for independence from patriarchal authority. Under the co-direction of Richard Gutierrez and Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Teatro Vista’s production of Hope highlights the hidden desires and fears in an age of sexual and political revolution. Here, history is an inventory list: events, pop songs, and video footages.” – Read Yiwen Wu’s full critique and learn more about the author!

Alisa Boland: “The stories of Elena and her children stand in stark contrast to an increasingly ominous backdrop of an unfaithful father and Kennedy-era Cold War politics. Commenting on the damage that unchecked masculinity can wreak on both families and nations, Fernández draws a direct comparison between Charlie Morales (Eddie Martinez) and John F. Kennedy; both are idolized by Betty, both share the title of president—one of the nation the other of the Mexican-American social club—both are confident, both are handsome, and neither are to be trusted. As Cold War tensions increase, so do Charlie’s absent spells, forcing the family to rally together and realize their own independence.” –  Read Alisa Boland’s full critique and learn more about the author! 

Hope: Part II of a Mexican Trilogy produced by Teatro Vista ran through Oct. 27th.

Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel (Elena)
Eddie Martinez (Charlie)
Ayssette Muñoz (Gina)
Tommy Rivera-Vega (Rudy)
Janyce Caraballo (Betty)
Andrea Cañizares-Fernandez (Mari)
Nick Mayes (Johnny)
Victor Maraña (Enrique)
Joaquin Rodarte (Bobby)

Co-Director: Artistic Director Ricardo Gutiérrez
Co-Director: Ensemble Member Cheryl Lynn Bruce
Playwright: Evelina Fernández
Set Design: Jose Manuel Diaz
Costume Design: Sanja Manakowski
Lighting and Video Design: Joe Burke
Stage Manager: Alden Vasquez.
Managing Director: Sylvia Lopez
Photographer: Joel Maisonet

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