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San Francisco by Richard Connema

An Engaging and Thoughtful Production of Somewhere


Priscilla Lopez and Michael Rosen
Matthew Lopez's Somewhere is having its Northern California premiere at TheatreWorks in Mountain View through February 10th. The two hour forty minute dance-drama brings back to stage the superb Priscilla Lopez with an outstanding cast of young supporting players mostly from New York.

Somewhere is a poignant look into the lives of a Puerto Rican family in New York City in the late 1950s and '60s. This is a show business family with the mother Inez (Priscilla Lopez) a force of nature who works as an usher so she can see musicals. She has seen Gypsy twenty times and, just like Mama Rose, is constantly promoting her adult children to take up show biz careers. Her son Alejandro (Michael Rosen), who appears to be the breadwinner of the family, had appeared as one of the children in The King and I on Broadway. However, he does not want to pursue a career in musicals but wants just ordinary jobs like being a good waiter. You might say he is the realist in this fantasy driven family. However, Inez's younger son Francisco (Eddie Gutierrez), a senior in high school, is gung ho to be a dancer and "star" in musicals, and Rebecca (Michelle Cabinian) also wants to be a great dancer. Rounding out the cast is friend Jamie (Leo Ash Evans) who has made it "big" as an assistant to Jerome Robbins on West Side Story, which is being filmed nearby. The father (who is never seen) is off in California pursuing dreams of Hollywood stardom.

There are a lot of problems for Inez and her three children, since urban planner Robert Mores is demolishing 14 blocks of buildings to make way for the Lincoln Center in the first act, which takes place in 1959. Of course, Inez lives in a fantasy world and just won't move until buildings are being blown up just a block away. (Thanks to Jeremy J. Lee for the wonderful sound effects.)

Somewhere is filled with inside-theatre references to many musicals and show biz personalities. The second act, which takes place in 1960, is where the playwright really finds his stride with the characters and their interactions, teasing out interior tensions fascinating enough to drive the play. The drama can be considered part realism and part fantasy; in the second act, Michael Rosen goes into a sensational dance that is reminiscent of the "Electricity" dance of Billy Elliot.

Audiences may feel abandoned with an unsatisfactory anticlimactic last scene, though there are many good things going for this new drama. It will need further trimming of its two hours and 40 minutes if it is to be successful in New York.

Priscilla Lopez gives an engrossing performance as Inez, the stage-struck matriarch. She drives the drama forward with her dynamo performance. Inez lives in her dreams and they give her hope. Michael Rosen gives a compelling performance as Alejandro, the genuine member of the family. His ten-minute dance choreographed by Greg Graham is exhilarating.

Eddie Gutierrez gives a vibrant performance as the younger brother who dreams of being a Broadway "star." He gives an exuberant four-minute monologue wherein he mimes every part of famous Broadway and Hollywood scenes, like Brando yelling "Stella!" in A Streetcar Named Desire. Both Michelle Cabinian as Alejandro's little sister and Leo Ash Evans as Alejandro's now successful childhood friend give pleasing performances, and both dance Greg Graham's dances with considerable flair.

Greg Graham's imaginative choreography leads the production in its most ethereal moments. Direction by Giovanna Sardelli is sharp while Andrea Bechert has devised an excellent set showing the two apartments of the Candelaria family.

Somewhere plays through February 10th at TheatreWorks, Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View. For tickets call 650-463-1960 or visit at www.theatreworks.org. Coming up next is Katori Hall's The Mountaintop, from March 6 through March 31 at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Following will be the world premiere musical version of Being Earnest with book and lyrics by Paul Gordon and music by Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska. It runs April 3 through April 28 at Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.


Photo: Mark Kitaoka

- Richard Connema



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