GALA Hispanic Theatre Living OutBy David Siegel • May 1st, 2014 • Category: Reviews
GALA Hispanic Theatre: (Info) (Web)
GALA Theatre-Tivoli, Washington DC
Through May 18th
2:15 with intermission
$38-$42/$26 Seniors/$20 Student, Military (Plus Fees)
Reviewed April 26th, 2014
With Living Out playwright Lisa Loomer found a way to use sharp-edged comedy to give cover to a politically tinged, ultimately tragic tale about child-rearing. As produced by GALA Hispanic Theater, Living Out is chock-full of Sophie’s choices for families deeply affected by their unequal economic and legal relationships.
In the play, written in 2003, Loomer directly asks these types of questions: what is the cost of sacrificing your own child’s well-being to take care of another family’s child? When a mother is overwhelmed who will pay the price? She presents her perspective in the collision of very asymmetrical power relationships between an undocumented Salvadoran mother hired to be the nanny by an up-and-coming Anglo entertainment lawyer and new mother. The two working mothers, both married with working husbands, make any number of uneasy choices to provide better lives for their children.
Playwright Loomer (b. 1956) has received awards for her many works, including the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays, and the American Critics Association Award. She has been nominated twice for a Pulitzer Prize and has also received the Imagen Award for positive portrayals of Latinos in media. She was the screen writer for the 1999 movie “Girl, Interrupted.”
Living Out is directed by Abel López, GALA’s Associate Producing Director. “I was drawn to Living Out,” stated López, “because it addresses an issue that affects working women of all races, class, and economic status in our community – entrusting the primary care of their children to someone else.” As a note, the show is in English with Spanish surtitles projected.
For your reviewer, what is striking about Living Out is that it is not full of Washington-based talking points and clichés. It is a street-level view. There are few saints as the characters try to make life the best they can under the circumstances they are in. Loomer does not bludgeon with sharply defined Fox vs. MSNBC points of view, but gives the audience plenty of room to take in the presentation and think for themselves.
The play explores a myriad of issues about the differences of race, class and undocumented status in America. Through the play we witness struggles of mothers and families trying to make it in a pressurized world. With a great big delightful heart, the play also explores the misconceptions between Anglos and Latinos from each of their perspectives. This includes some outrageously diabolical, funny dialogue that leaves no group untouched. Everyone is properly roasted.
Megan Behm plays the Anglo, Nancy. Ana is played by Belen Oyola-Rebaza. The difference in power is made quite visual in the casting of these two actors. Behen towers over Oyola-Rehbaza. As the play progresses, there comes a time when Nancy must deal with an unexpected work situation. She pressures Ana into a decision that she will come to regret.
In her character, Behm projects a progressive sensibility and generosity in her interactions with Ana. Yet, when Ana lets her employer know that she had trained to be a dentist in her native El Salvador, there is a moment of silence as Nancy tries to process the information.
Oyola-Rebaza projects living under constant siege by outside forces; a life beholden to others. When Nancy seems to try to befriend and not just employ Ana, Oyola-Rebaza gives off a nuanced, leery reaction to the offer of friendship.
The two husbands in Living Out while not central, do matter. Each is given a back-story to flesh out the characters. Nancy’s husband is Kyle McGruther, a man who hates a Volvo and unsure of what is wife is going through but supports her. Ana’s husband is Peter Pereyra, a man who wants better for his family, but life has dealt him a bad hand as he struggles to find steady employment at a decent wage.
There is a top-flight ensemble of Anglo mothers and Latina child-care givers. They give effervescent life. They are like back-up singers who provide the rhythm and visual interest standing a few feet behind the lead. Each has a clearly drawn personality. There is Lisa Hodsoll as Wallace, the selfish woman of means who treats non-Anglo’s with disdain. There is Amal Sasde as Linda, the unsure of herself Anglo Mom with a hint of decency. Stefanie Garcia is Sandra, the Latina with a plan to become a citizen and kiss-off her past. Then there is Lorena Sabogal as Zoila. She brought the house down with her delivery and spot-on comic, cynical outlook. Louis CK should pay a visit to see her. She is one tough cookie. She is like a Shakespeare-drawn comic clown.
The set give off detailed visual clues to the various power relationships. There are two small open “houses” in plain sight. They look similar until one peers closer. One has a modern, dropped multi-bulb lighting fixture and a contemporary painting of an almost un-seen Star of David. The other house has a single, un-shaded incandescent bulb on the ceiling with a large cross on the wall. Between the two houses is a sitting area which becomes everything from a living room to benches at a park.
Living Out has plenty of laughter to cover the deep issues it explores with compassion. In this production, even with the best of hearts, the woman and family with the most economic and other power “wins;” leaving the other Salvadoran family left to deal with and mourn their losses.
And, the title? Living Out comes a question asked of Ana and the other nannies. Do you want to live-in and be in the home 24/7 or live at your home and travel each day to care for another’s child.
Living Out is what the GALA marketing material called it. “A comedy with serious relevance to our contemporary society.” It is well worth a visit.
Note: Off-street parking is available at the nearby Giant parking garage on Park Road, NW.
Photos by Lonnie Tague
- Ana: Belén Oyola-Rebaza
- Nancy: Megan Behm
- Bobby: Peter Pereyra
- Sandra: Stefanie García
- Wallace: Lisa Hodsoll
- Richard: Kyle McGruther
- Linda: Amal Saad
- Zoila: Lorena Sabogal
Artistic and Design Team
- Director: Abel Lopez
- Set design : Girogos Tsappas
- Lighting design : Cory Frank Ryan
- Sound Design : Brendon Vierra
- Properties: Pam Weiner.
- Stage Manager: Lena Salins
- Production Manager : Anna Bate
- Producer: Hugo Medrano
- Spanish Translation : Gustavo Ott
- Assistant Technical Director: Linda Di Bernardo
- Master Electrician: Jenny Hall
- Light Board Operator: Lena Salins
- Sound Board Operator: Artemis Lopez
- Surtitles Programmer and Surtitles Operator: Laura Ettabbakh
- Surtitles Operator: Esther Gentile
Disclaimer: GALA Hispanic Theatre provided a complimentary media ticket to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/10379.
David Siegel is a freelance theater reviewer and features writer whose work appears on ShowBizRadio, in the Connection Newspapers and the Fairfax Times. He is a judge in the Helen Hayes Awards program. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and volunteers with the Arts Council of Fairfax County. David has been associated with theater in the Washington, DC area for nearly 30 years. He served as Board President, Alexandria's American Showcase Theater Company (now Metro Stage) and later with Arlington's American Century Theater as both a member of the Executive Board and as Marketing Director. You can follow David's musings on Twitter @pettynibbler.