Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Traveling with Angels
The Angels Are Calling to René Peña
National Hispanic Cultural Center
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Dean's review of The Philadelphia Story

René Peña
Photo by Traveling with Angels
In the one-women show, Traveling with Angels, René Peña tells her story of family closeness and love, as well as loss and sorrow. The story goes deep into grief to the point that the performance ends in tears. Along the way, we learn about Pena's life—her aspirations and disappointments.

This is the first play written by René Peña. She's a native New Mexican from Gallup who has performed widely on TV shows, including "Grey's Anatomy," "Dexter," and Parks and Recreation." She's both strong and intimate on stage, displaying a wide range of emotions and keeping things interesting through the entire 75 minutes of this one-act performance. I came away wanting more.

Traveling with Angles feels incomplete as is. While the drama is authentic and Peña delves deep inside to tell her life, there are a few steps she could take to go deeper and give the audience a tougher chew. For one, we need to know more about these angels. After all, they garner the title of her story. They're presented as rare voices that appear to be singing sour notes. Spoiler alert: I'm about to reveal plot points here.

The angels tell her that her husband is going to be all right. Well, her husband isn't going to be all right. We need more here. When do the angels come to her aid? As presented, they almost seem to betray her. How does she actually view them? If we could learn more about the angels and her view of them, the information and drama could up-level the entire play. She could even bring them in earlier in her life, perhaps during the years she pretends to be Aztec or Apache.

Also, we need to see her recover from her husband's untimely death. We see her noble attempts to take care of him in his illness and lead him to a positive place of healing. We see her collapse when all her attempts fail, but we don't see her get back up. Presumably, she did get back up sufficiently to pursue a decently successful acting career and write a one-women play. We need to see how this happened. I would guess her acting was an important part of her recovery. And perhaps also the angels played a role in her recovery. After all, she's traveling with angels.

Traveling with Angels, written and performed by René Peña, will run through February 28, 2016, at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. Performances are at 7:30 Thursday through Saturday, and at 2:00 on Sunday. Tickets are $18, with a $3 discount for seniors and students. $10 for Thursday performances. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the NHCC at 724-4771, or go to

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