Dolores & North of Providence

By Edward Allan Baker
Directed by Albert Bonilla
Featuring Rachel Cornish, Sat Charn Fox, John Golaszewski, Rebecca Nyahay

Teatro Latea, 107 Suffolk Street
production web site:  http://www.cloutinthemug.com/

January 26, 2011 — February 12, 2011

Reviewed by Martha Wade Steketee
January 28, 2011

I left the Chicago theatre community in person (but not in spirit) almost two years ago, after four years of increasing involvement as a practicing dramaturg, as a critic, as an inveterate theatre goer on my own dime, and as a member of the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee for my final year or so in residence.  In these roles I met people doing great theatre in large beautiful venues, in borrowed spaces, in empty churches, old storefronts barely wide enough to elbow into, and in re-purposed, well, almost anything.  Many times I would have that “this is why I go to theatre” moments in those dusky tiny places where magic happens accompanied by the words of Clifford Odets (thank you Artistic Home) or John Steinbeck (thank you Steep Theatre) and many many others.  And I have now had that Off-Loop experience for the first time as a resident of Manhattan — that moment of surprise and total absorption, that visceral “they make theatre here?” coupled with “that is stunning” power duo — with the aid of four fine actors, two one acts by Edward Allan Baker, and Teatro Latea.

I smile as I ascend the stairs, by a fitzing clanging radiator, to the second floor of a building behind construction scaffolding on Suffolk Street in the East Village.  I am familiar with this routine (that “Off Loop” love, remember) and I enjoy the sense of possibilities.  I find seats arrayed in multiple rows to carve a small playing area out of a huge flexible black box space. House music features Tina Turner‘s “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” and other gems of the time (sound design uncredited).  Bare minimum set pieces (set design by Rachel Kenner) of an apartment or house set up before us (furniture, scattered children’s toys).  And we begin.

“Dolores” and “North of Providence”, two one acts that form this single evening, use the same 1984 Valentine’s Day (heralded by the same 9:10am radio broadcast) in the same scrappy lower class neighborhood, to show stories of two sets of twenty-something siblings finding their way through childhood pain and current life decisions to provide solace to one another.   “Dolores” is the story of two sisters and events in their past and present.  Sandra (Rachel Cornish), a mom and housewife, adorably done up as Flashdance era Jennifer Beals (hair, consciously off shoulder sweatshirt), defends her choice to marry early and have two children in the face of her oldest sibling Dolores (Sat Charn Fox), who enters in trouble, as she always is.  This time there has been trouble with her current husband.  Through laughter that surprises, tears that shock even more, the sisters find that they share more in their life choices than they’d every revealed before, and calmly face their futures.  Together.  “North of Providence” involves brother Bobby (John Golaszewski) and sister Carol (Rebecca Nyahay) who challenge each other to face their father’s imminent hospital death.  Bobby has been living in his parent’s house for some time, barely earning, bumbling along, a petty drifter, not seeing his father’s dire illness clearly.  Carol has come to the family home to roust the drunken (always drunken) Bobby to get him to visit Dad before he dies.  And they uncover a secret of their own shared past that brings them closer together.

Glorious moving acting by all and plot details that are at once familiar and yet have surprising twists.  Golaszewski in particular provides a silent initial scene, entering weaving drunk and falling into a dead sleep before the action of the second act begins, that is some of the best drunk acting I’ve seen.  All the actors reach highs and lows of pitch and character that will charm and move you.

Director Albert Bonilla has created a powerful world with these actors, with this place, with calibrated movement and timing.  Delightful, dark, dismaying, resonant, uplifting.

© Martha Wade Steketee (January 29, 2011)

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