Assimilation for One Family
TR Robertson — The latest online streaming play from San Diego Repertory Theatre portrays funny views of the life of one family’s journey from Mexico to the diverse East L.A. neighborhoods and on to the middle-class suburbs of San Fernando Valley. Written by Cris Franco, Emmy award winning play and screen writer and comedian, the playwright tells the story of his own family and the hard-working efforts of his father to make life comfortable and better for his family. The play is a fun filled story of the families move from Mexico City told mostly through the eyes of Cris’s father and young Cris Jr., but also told by numerous relatives and friends along the way.
Actor Ric Salinas is masterful as he portrays young Cris, Cris’s father and 17-18 other characters, such as Cris’s sisters, his mother, a border guard, his Catholic nun teacher, and many more. Salinas is the co-founder of Culture Clash, a Latino performance troupe. As the play begins, Cris is trying to write the story of his family but suffering writer’s block. As he looks around his garage, he finds reminders of his life growing up, but the one item that starts his story is his father’s work shirt from the auto shop he owned which leads to the memory of his father’s ‘57 powder blue Chevy, how important the car was to him and what it meant to the family. This triggers the tale of the father’s move to East LA from Mexico City. He says his father was like “Mexican Duct tape,” a man that could fix anything. He describes his father as growing up dirt poor, working painting the faces of toy soldiers in a factory. His father wanted to create a better life for his family and wanted to bring his wife and children to the U.S.A., seeing a chance to improve their life through his hard work.
As Cris, Junior to the family, Salinas takes the viewers through the family’s life in the 50’s and 60’s, the move from Mexico City, the opening of the father’s own German car garage, his mother and sisters adjusting to life in America and more. As the family moved to the mostly white middle class suburbs of San Fernando Valley, Cris’s father makes purchases he feels will help the family fit in and show they have made it, like a Magnavox big screen projection T.V., furniture from Sears, and eventually his own blue massage chair. Young Cris struggles with the families move to the suburbs, struggles fitting in at school and struggles understanding why his father is trying so hard to fit in to the American society and at the same time keeping his cultural values as well. All the family’s story is told with humor and understanding, Cris finally realizing what his father had wanted for the family after he travels to Mexico for his grand-fathers funeral and seeing how difficult life can be. He sums up his feelings for his father when he was speaking with his father selling his beloved ‘57 Chevy and not passing it on to Cris when he says he “had a classic all his life, I didn’t need the Chevy”.
Directors Herbert Siguenza, San Diego Rep Playwright in Residence, and Sam Woodhouse, San Diego Rep Artistic Director, along with actor Ric Salinas, have put together an entertaining, funny, poignant immigration and assimilation story multitude of people go through as they search for a better life and the “American dream” for their families. The SD Rep Creative team assisting Siguenza and Woodhouse consisted of Music Composer Fred Lanuza, Scenic Designer Christopher Scott Murillot, Lighting by Mextly Couzin, Costume Designer Carmen Amon, Sound Designer Matt Lescault-Wood, Production Stage Manager Heather M. Brose and Properties Supervisor Zlatko Mitev. The unique cluttered garage set provided all the needed props as Salinas quickly maneuvered around the set grabbing whatever he needed for whomever he was portraying and whatever the story required.
“’57 Chevy” will give viewers a humorous, slightly different perspective in looking at the struggles many people go through as they assimilate into new cultural surroundings. It is also a great story about family and the strong relationships established as they grow together. Tickets for the online play can be purchased through www.ssdrep.org and will stream until August 15th.