By Bill Garry
Do you want to experience our city's ethnic diversity and see where new cultural leadership is being developed? Then add the 24th Street Theatre to your L.A. itinerary. This non-profit company produces shows for family audiences that bridge Latino and white cultures, even as that divide is -- thankfully -- shrinking. And "family-friendly" does not mean that it doesn't tackle tough issues and challenge kids emotionally.
Tony Dúran and Jesús Castaños-Chima
Photo by Cooper Bates Now running is
ICE, a look at the U.S.'s current immigration mess through the eyes of two illegal Mexican immigrants in pursuit of the American dream. Playwright Leon Martell weaves humor, pathos, and danger into a story that operates on two levels. It's a gentle fable for kids about baseball and friendship as well as a thought-provoking commentary for adults about personal integrity, government ethics, and the clashes that can arise between them.
Chepe (a magnetic Jesús Castaños-Chima) and his cousin Nacho (played with a simple mind and a big, intelligent heart by Tony Dúran) dream of making it big with a taco truck and their Tia's salsa recipe. But they have no papers, and must dodge government authorities and helpful citizens (all portrayed by the versatile Davitt Felder) alike to stay in the shadows.
Photo by Cooper Bates
The show is set in 1988, but it could be 2018, and director Debbie Devine highlights the parallels. Two giant 1980's TV sets dominate stage right, feeding the actors a constant barrage of mixed messages about the American dream and American immigration hysteria. Center stage is The Truck, a character in its own right, who brings the two men together and provides the magic that leads the story to its bittersweet conclusion.
The show is performed in Spanish and English with supertitle translations projected on a screen above the action. Kudos to creative team members Keith Mitchell, Matthew Hill, Dan Weingarten, Christopher Moscatiello, Shannon Kennedy, Benjamin Durham and Alexx Zachary.
Jesús Castaños-Chima and Tony Dúran
Photo by Cooper Bates
A rewarding part of the 24th Street Theatre experience is interacting with the local community members who staff and attend their productions. The company serves all the people of its gentrifying neighborhood -- inner-city residents, homeless people, local kids, students and visiting parents from nearby USC -- and teaches them to use the power of theatre to amplify their own voices. The company's productions point out the issues; the hard-working artists and neighbors behind the scenes make the changes real.
ICE will be at the 24th Street Theatre from May 19 - Jun 10.