If Sunday night’s opening night performance of Alma by Benjamin Benne is any indication, live theatre is back in Culver City and the audiences are excited. And there was much to be excited about.
As CTG Assistant Associate Director Luis Alfaro said in his introduction of the play, there are 10 million people in Los Angeles, who speak over 220 languages, and Alma is just one single story of this metropolis melting pot. Taking place on one evening, the story of Alma, an undocumented single mother, and her high-school daughter Angel covers so many of the issues people are dealing with in this city – a defiant teenager, the struggles of being both a single mom and an undocumented immigrant, the weight of expectations on the next generation – in ways both funny and touching.
The action initially centers on Angel taking the SAT as part of a plan Alma has been making for her daughter since birth. On each birthday, Angel makes not so much as a wish but a dream to achieve (with Alma filling in the first three) and these wishes/dreams have, in Alma’s mind, become her daughter’s future. Angel has other plans and as the night progresses, these plans will come in conflict with what is Alma’s more pressing concern – ensuring her daughter a successful future without her. Benne is very successful in creating these multi-faceted women – and actresses Cheryl Umaña as Alma and Sabrina Fest as Angel breathe life into Benne’s words. Both actresses are able to adeptly handle the comedic – in an almost slapstick/balletic fight over la chancla Alma is using to punish Angel – and the tragic – both women’s anguish over the threat of deportation and being separated. There is not an inauthentic beat in the piece.
Juliette Carrillo’s inspired direction makes use of Tanya Orellana’s perfect living room set. Lonnie Rafael’s Alcaraz’s inspired lighting and Carolyn Mazuca’s realistic costume design add to a marvelous evening of theatre.
If this is an indication of the upcoming Kirk Douglas’s season, we have a lot to look forward to! At the Kirk Douglas Theatre through April 3rd.