Alla en la Roma grande – Roma al Final de la Via opens at 24th Street Theater

by Ramona Pilar Gonzales

Guest Writer

pLAywriting in the city

Alla en la Roma grandeRoma al Final de la Via opens at 24th Street Theater

The 24th Street Theater has chosen Roma to open its 15th season which they will be dedicating to youth programming and play development. The objective is to produce quality, sophisticated productions for youth in order to develop the next generation of theater patrons. “We are rejecting the model of TYA [Theater for Young Audiences] that panders to children with cutesy stories and happy endings… Sometimes it seems like we’re so anxious to protect our children that we forget to teach them about loss, heartache and sadness in addition to love, happiness and joy.” – Executive Director Jay McAdams.

Enter: Roma al Final de la Via.

Part of a trilogy written by Daniel Serrano, Roma is the story of lifelong best friends Emilia and Evangelina who live in a small, rural town in Mexico. These two are introduced to the audience at age seven, as they make their way to the nearby tracks in order to watch the train go by. They fantasize about one day going to Rome, eating pizza, and seeing what exists beyond the confines of their hometown. Over the course of their 70-year friendship, they continue to meet at the tracks during pivotal moments in their lives, each time revisiting their first dream – to visit Rome.

Personal caveat: Adult actors playing children is an extremely difficult thing to pull off. Too often the tendency is to conjure an image of a child – exaggerated expressions, slow-thinking, fast-moving – rather than rather than embody a character afflicted with complex thoughts and limited language with which to express them.

As seven year old Emilia and Evangelina, there were some common choices: walking stiltedly; arms thrown out, hands spread and spinning with a “sense of wonder” on the face; thick-tongued, slightly lisp-y speech.  However, the affectations gave way to fully realized, committed performances. On stage the entire time (80 minutes, no intermission), each armed with a coat rack full of costumes, these supremely talented actresses moved through decades, their movements and voices evolving with each costume piece.  The result was a good deal of comedic banter and some very beautiful moments, indicative of the remarkable chemistry between the two actresses.

The set was minimal, consisting of a few black boxes to mark the area by the train where the entire play takes place. This caused a bit of confusion when the “train” would actually pass by them. Without a sense of where the tracks lay, and the size of the train, it was difficult to understand the staging and choreography in those moments.

Emilia and Evangelina meet each other at the railroad at ages 7, 13, 20, 40, 60, and 80.  When they’re children, Rome is at the end of the train line. The older they get, they realize that their dreams are further and further away. And yet, each time they meet up, the ubiquitous train barrels along in front of them. Whether the train is a consistent reminder of perpetual opportunity or opportunities lost depends on the viewer.

Roma al Final de la Via (Rome at the End of the Line) Written by Daniel Serrano and Directed by Alberto Lonmitz. In Spanish with English super titles. September 15, 2012 – October 7, 2012.

Show times: Saturdays 2:00pm and 7:30pm; Sundays 2:00pm. Special Saturday Night out 7:30pm at the Historic North University Park  ~ handicap accessible – 24th

Via Metro: 200 Bus, 603 Bus or 37/14 Bus

Parking: $5 in gated lot across street from theatre, ample street parking always available.

Tickets: $15 adults, $12 seniors/students/teachers w/ ID; $10 under age 18; 24 cents for University Park residents

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Ramona Pilar Gonzales is a writer/performer and native Californian.  Her nonfiction work has been published in LatinoLA, CreepyLA, La Revista Magazine, the Highland Park News and more.  She has also written and produced several short plays and films.  Her dramatized essay, Del Plato a la Boca, El Ritmo te Toca, received a grant from La Plaza de Cultura y Artes Foundation.  She is a founding member of the theater performance group Tongue in Chíc*ana.  Ramona has a B.A. in Film and Cultural Representation from UC Davis and an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, Los Angeles.