Reviewed by Judy Richter
"We are a family of dreamers," says the matriarch of a Puerto Rican immigrant family in "Somewhere," the Matthew Lopez drama presented by TheatreWorks in its regional premiere. For the Candelaria family, the dreams revolve around show business, but reality keeps them in a tenement apartment on West 66th Street in New York City in the summer of 1959.
Still, everyone tries. The steely matriarch, Inez (Priscilla Lopez), does sewing for neighbors and works two jobs, including ushering at the Broadway theater where "West Side Story" is playing. Daughter Rebecca (Michelle Cabinian) also ushers and takes dance lessons. Son Francisco (Eddie Gutierrez) takes acting lessons. Son Alejandro (Michael Rosen) played one of the children in "The King and I" on Broadway, but now a burdensome secret has led him to abandon his dream and work 80 hours a week to help support the family. The long-absent family patriarch is in Cuba working as a dancer.
Two catalysts set the plot in motion. The first is that choreographer Jerome Robbins is in town to film the dance prologue to the movie version of "West Side Story." Inez and Jamie MacRea (Leo Ash Evens), a longtime family friend and an assistant to Robbins, want Alejandro to try out.
The second is that the family must move in 30 days because their neighborhood is being razed to make way for the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, but Inez refuses to go. She fears her husband won't know where to find them. The end of Act 1 is fraught with peril as the three kids frantically pack while a wrecking ball whacks away at their building.
While the first act has some slow spots, especially in the middle, the second act is stronger as the family is settled in a larger, nicer apartment in a Brooklyn housing project a year later. By then, Inez is ushering for "Gypsy," whose central character, Mama Rose, shares many of Inez's characteristics. However, Act 2 ends anticlimactically after an Alejandro dance scene that might have worked better as the ending.
Because the play has several dance scenes well choreographed by Greg Graham, director Giovanna Sardelli needed a cast of skilled actors who can also dance. She found them in this five-person ensemble, and she guides them well.
Scenic designer Andrea Bechert masters the challenge of changing the set from the Act 1 cramped brownstone apartment -- complete with fire escape and laundry hanging outside -- to the more spacious yet basic apartment of Act 2. Lighting by Steven B. Mannshardt and costumes by Cathleen Edwards serve the play well. Jeremy J. Lee's sound design features music from the times as well as snatches of news broadcasts that give a sense of what's happening outside the apartment.
Adding to the family feeling in "Somewhere," playwright Lopez is the nephew of actress Lopez, who made such a powerful impression as Diana Morales in the original production of "A Chorus Line." Candelaria was her mother's maiden name, and in a sly aside, the family living downstairs in the play is named Lopez.
"Somewhere" had its world premiere at San Diego's Old Globe Theatre in 2011. Besides being restaged from in-the-round to a proscenium, it has been rewritten since then. Despite whatever changes may have been made, it still needs more work. Nevertheless, it's worth seeing, especially for the dancing and acting.Return to Home Page