The Children’s Theatre Company is premiering a passionate production of a passionate play. I Come From Arizona by Carlos Murillo is told through the eyes of 14-year-old Gabi (Ayssette Munoz) who lives with her family on the south side of Chicago. When she earns admittance to an elite school on the tony north side, an assignment for a Global Perspectives class sends her life into acute anxiety.
The assignment calls for students to talk with their parents about their family history. Unfortunately, Gabi has an obstacle the other kids don’t have: her father has suddenly and mysteriously left for the southwest US (or so she’s told) and her overworked mother evades conversation about the family’s past. Both parents were born and raised in Mexico.
I Come From Arizona penetrates the secrecy surrounding the family with dramatic focus and power, as well as endearing humor. Moreover, though Murillo has written significant portions of the play in Spanish, the bilingual component is so seamlessly woven into the action that the situations are presented with lucid intentionality. Director Lisa Portes matches the mighty emotions with the predicament portrayed to vivid success.
Munoz’s lead performance is remarkable in its mastery by such a young actress. Antonio De La Vega brings lovable kindness to the role of Ricardo, a classmate who comes out to her as gay. Madison Neal demonstrates skill in the role of the snotty “rich white girl”, Fiona, a role written with borderline stereotypicality. That said, Neal brings humanity to the role.
One of the most fun performances you’ll see on any local stage is Luca La Hoz Calassara as Gabi’s buoyant little brother, Jesus. Nora Montanez and Ricardo Vazquez render touching portrayals of Gabi’s struggling and fearful parents, rounding out compelling look at a traditional family desperately trying to stick together in the midst of adversity. I Come From Arizona is a meaningful examination of the Dreamer dilemma.
I Come From Arizona
Through Nov. 25
Children’s Theatre Company, 2400 3rd Ave. S., Minneapolis