When I stumble upon catching a stage work that is so very fresh, innovative and entertaining, along with a dose of emotion and passion to top off the audience experience, it leaves me ready and willing to shout about it from the rooftops.
And this is indeed the scenario for National Pastime Theater's well-conceived and riveting Chicago premiere of "Lydia," the moving and memorable audience-connected journey now running until Nov. 9 at the fourth floor and surprisingly cavernous stage space in the Preston Bradley Center at 941 W. Lawrence Ave. on Chicago's North Side.
Imagine what is happening in the mind of someone trapped inside a body that won't cooperative because of a nervous system and brain activity partially destroyed from a horrible car accident? Unable to fully communicate or care for herself, Ceci is a 17-year-old who still has an active mind trapped inside a body unwilling to respond to her mental commands.
Director Cecilie Keenan masterfully gives audiences a window into this main character's mind to witness the thoughts and observations that frustrated young girl is experiencing as she is surrounded by a loving, yet dysfunctional family where drama abounds.
Set in El Paso, Texas 1973, Ceci, played with compelling qualities every breath of the way by Sindy Castro, is the first generation Mexican/American daughter of the Flores Family. She has suffered brain damage in a mysterious car accident on the day before her 15th birthday. Her brothers and parents have become extremely isolated from one another since the accident. Ceci tries to bring them together, but her words cannot be heard. Enter Lydia, an undocumented maid, brought in to care for Ceci. Lydia's immediate and miraculous bond to Ceci sets the entire family on a dangerous and revealing journey. Past and present secrets and desires force the Flores family to face their demons.
Jessie David Perez is powerful as the tormented brother Rene, countered by Nelson Rodriguez who is fantastic as the sensitive and beautifully caring brother Misha. Franco Steeves is an angry and volatile father and Matthew Harris is a confused cousin who is a key to the uncertain family influx. Rose Guccione is amazing as a controlling, yet caring mother with a certain edge and Sarai Rodriguez is the "caution-to-the-wind" maid Lydia, who is a fine catalyst for all.
Author of more than 20 plays, I'm told Octavio Solis is considered by many to be one of the most prominent Latino playwrights in America. With works that both draw on and transcend the Mexican-American experience, he is best described as a writer and director whose style defies formula, examining the darkness, magic and humor of humanity with brutal honesty and characteristic intensity. His imaginative and ever-evolving work continues to cross cultural and aesthetic boundaries, solidifying him as someone often tagged one of the great playwrights of today.
"Lydia" has regular performances at 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday and 6 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and $15 for students.
The National Pastime Theater is located within the rediscovered historic Preston Bradley Center at 941 W Lawrence Ave. 4th Floor in Chicago. The curious and bold can discover us via the Red Line Lawrence train stop and bus routes 36, 81, 145 and 151 are all within 3 blocks. There's plenty of street parking or $5 parking in Weiss Hospital parking at 4650 N. Clarendon. Voucher at box office. FYI: nationalpastimetheater.com