Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sonia Flew (The SOB Review) - Downstairs Theatre, Steppenwolf, Chicago, IL

Sonia Flew (The SOB Review) - Downstairs Theatre, Steppenwolf, Chicago, IL

**** (out of ****)

At Steppenwolf's opening of the splendid Sonia Flew Sunday evening, I experienced something unique among all my visits to this excellent theatre: real tears. And they were my own.

Packing a powerful wallop without being overly sentimental, the Melinda Lopez drama wins on so many levels: Jessica Thebus' exquisite direction, Stephanie Nelson's gorgeous set design, Stephan Mazurek's haunting projection design and a truly superb cast.

Ultimately, Sonia Flew packs its most decisive punch as an engrossing, richly layered account of redemption. That redemption is realized by Sonia, a Cuban émigré who has made a new life for herself in Minneapolis.

Sonia Flew is neatly divided into two very distinct acts, each with a major historical thread that's integral to the story. The first is the Holiday celebration for Sonia's family in 2001, just months after 9/11. The second flashes back to the advent of Sonia's earlier departure from the tyranny of Castro's Cuba. In each, Sonia mistakes family members' sense of duty to her and country for acts of terrifying abandonment.

In the first act, we learn that Sonia is like so many others in the heady aftermath of the worst attacks on American soil -- she's simply afraid to fly; she has even forced one plane to return to the gate prior to take-off. But we later learn that Sonia has flown before in perhaps the bravest flight of her life -- when she was placed on a plane alone decades earlier by her parents to secure her freedom from the ravages of communism. Despite her parents' pledges that they'd see her again, it would never come to pass.

Sonia's life-changing event propels her to purposely shun the painful memories until her son announces his noble intentions to join the Marines after getting caught up in the patriotic vitriol of the time. Sensing abandonment once again, Sonia lashes out at her son in the same fashion she did with her parents years before.

Thanks to Lopez' gifted writing, the story comes full circle to a point that left me in tears. For her words not only deeply affected me. So did the raw emotions and flawless talent of the impeccable cast -- Sandra Delgado, Sandra Marquez, Andrew Perez, Vilma Silva, Jeff Still and Alan Wilder -- all showing incredible range and versatility in handling wildly divergent portrayals of two roles apiece. These fine actors infused their characterizations with just the right amount of emotional heft to be both believable and strangely intoxicating without ever being overwrought.

Steppenwolf describes the show as "heartwarming," but I was left positively chilled by this soaring work and strongly recommend it.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

Click here for tickets.
Related Stories:
Sonia Flew Doesn't Quite Soar With Chicago Critics (December 12, 2006)
Sonia Flew Takes Wing Tonight In Chicago (December 11, 2006)

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2 Comments:

At 14 December, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. Sounds good. Nice review, Steve. Thanks. Chicago has some great theatre on currently. Franks Home at the Goodman and Snowqween at VG are both on my list; now I add Sonia!

 
At 14 December, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Frankly, I was mystified when reading the review in the Chicago Tribune. It's almost as if we saw two very different productions.

Thanks for the heads-up on what you're seeing, Martha!

Cheers!

 

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