Saturday, September 5, 2015

Review of Juan Chipotle presented by terraNOVA Collective and The Playground Theater in association with the Chicago DCASE

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Don Chipotle. It was by Juan Francisco Villa and it was directed by Jo Cattell. The lyrics were by Gabe Ruiz and it was composed by Jenny Lynn Christoffersen and Preyas Roy. The show was about a boy named Celestino (Angelica Roque) whose family was made up of a bunch of mobsters (Lorena Diaz, Wendy Mateo, and Isabel Quintero). And he turns into this superhero named Don Chipotle and goes on this adventure with his friend Octavio (Karen Rodriguez), but he has to deal with real-life situations like having people he loves pass away, having people after him trying to hurt him, and people taking advantage of him being young and impressionable. I thought this was a cool show. I felt like it had a lot of fun and amazing elements, like how everything was made out of cardboard, and like how most of the characters were wearing makeup that looked like skull-faces, and the acting was amazing.

The style of this play was really cool. The set (by Joanna Iwanicka with scenic artist Laura Carney) kind of looked like what a kid would make to make their own play because everything was made out of cardboard. But it didn't look cheap; it looked really artistic. The props (by Sara Engel) were also cardboard and I thought that was really cool. My favorite was the teddy bear, because I thought it was cool that they made such an important part of Octavio's life cardboard and at the very end it turned real. The puppets (by Taylor Bibat and Rachel Singer) were super amazing. They were made out of cardboard as well. My favorite one was the train--or was it a dragon? You'll have to find out in the show! I thought the projections (Liviu Pasare, Bibat, and Singer) were very cool. They kind of reminded me of Manual Cinema. They were all an outline or a kind of sketch and they were very artsy and interesting. I did wish the projection screen was a little bit bigger so you didn't have to stray from the performers to look at the projections. I liked how they used Day of the Dead elements like how everyone had the skull faces. I thought they did that because the entire play is kind of about death. I also liked Don Chipotle's goggles (costumes by Izumi Inaba); they were really cool.

I felt like the show was very fun, but it did have a few problems. I sometimes felt a little confused about what was happening in the story. One time the characters were in a church and then they were in a train station and that was confusing because how did they get from the church to the train station? I was also sometimes confused about whether a character had actually died or if it was in Don Chipotle's imagination. Also, it might have been nice if they had had subtitles or translation sometimes when they had been speaking in Spanish, so even people who didn't speak Spanish could understand. Most of the time you could understand even if you didn't speak Spanish, but sometimes it got a little hard to understand. And sometimes characters didn't have full introductions and it was hard to understand who they were. But eventually you would figure it out most of the time, but until that happened I felt confused.

I had three favorite characters. One of them was Don Chipotle. He just kind of reminded me of me as a kid and how I would always pretend to be a superhero, but in my case a teenage witch from an anime movie. And Don Chipotle has this great flamboyant personality but then there was also more depth to this character because you got to see how sad he was. One of my other favorite characters was Octavio. I just found him so funny and amazing. He was like the kind of kid who is so enthusiastic and you just feel like he is the most adorable little thing ever. There was depth to this character too and you find out lots of crazy things about him by the end. There was also this woman (Mateo) who was very creepy who would come and offer Don Chipotle and Octavio cardboard cookies. I loved her accent and I really wanted her to have an entire back story that you would just be able to see. That is the kind of woman that probably had a very traumatizing experience with her child, and maybe she no longer has a husband so now she wants to kidnap children.

People who would like this show are people who like heartbreaking bittersweet endings, dragon-trains, and cardboard cookies. I think people will enjoy this show. It was beautiful to look at and the character arcs were beautiful and I really liked it.

Photos: Joel Maisonet

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