Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: A Refreshing Dose of Mexican Food and Pills

Everybody has some deep, dark secret that’s messed up their life that in turn affects the lives of the people around them. And that happens to be very true for Sonia Martinez, the trailblazer of secrets in Fernanda Coppel’s cunning and witty play Chimichangas and Zoloft. The story follows Sonia’s husband and teenage daughter, Ricardo and Jackie, along with friend carpool buddy Alejandro Lopez and his teenage daughter, Penelope, as they all deal with their inner demons while struggling to keep a grasp on reality after Sonia’s sudden disappearance. Jackie and Penelope are bffs who are on a mission to get Sonia back by hatching a plan texting Sonia that Jackie was pregnant, when in reality, it’s Penelope who got knocked up by her pot dealer. While Jackie, who has just come out to her mother, and Penelope are off causing trouble, Alejandro and Ricardo are causing trouble of their own. They have been having a torrid affair behind Sonia and their daughters’ backs. Alejandro is afraid of being caught while Ricardo just wants to love. As the play progresses, Sonia appears offering insight on her situation as the other characters drop bombshell after bombshell, attempting to pick up the pieces of the mess they’ve created.
The play is a true ensemble tour de force. No one actor steals spotlight, allowing for a cohesive, free-flowing story to unfold. Zabryna Guevara’s Sonia, though only having a brief moment with a scene partner other than the audience, does a mesmerizing job in her monologues. Guevara would easily be able to tackle a one-woman show that is engaging. She is the perfect mix of funny and unsettled. Tedd CaƱez and Alfredo Narciso are the perfect ying and yang as Ricardo and Alejandro. Narciso’s tender moments with Xochitl Romero’s Penelope, especially the scene in the doctor’s office, make for some of the nights best. Both Romero and Carmen Zilles do a superb job at believably playing the teenagers. Zilles’s subtly as Jackie is wondrous against her stern father. It’s truly tough to give a single gold star to anyone in the ensemble, but if one had to be given out, it would go to Zilles. Fernanda Coppel’s script is something special. Coppel has taken the basic family dramedy and turned it into something more. Like it’s predecessors, such as August: Osage County, Chimichangas and Zoloft is filled with plot twists and turns, but what sets it apart, they’re actually believable and not overwhelming to the action. Sure, every character has one, they just happen to be “current.” What’s refreshing to me about the script is her young characters tend to have a foul vocabulary, it happens to be natural and realistic. There are very few moments of forced dialogue. To some audience members, the language could be “shocking” to be used on stage, but let’s face it, you walk out of the building and you’ll hear it in real life. The otherwise drab Atlantic Stage 2 has been transformed into a Los Angeles setting, smartly designed by Lauren Helpern. Simply painting the room white worked wonders, especially giving Grant W.S. Yeager a blank canvas to light for each scene.
If you’re looking for a refreshing, genuine night of theater, check out Chimichangas and Zoloft. Fernanda Coppel is a voice that you’ll likely hear from in the future.