American Jornalero

Author: Alan Bresloff
Category: Theatre Reviews

Recommended *** 

Most Americans are unaware of the secrets of the major cities. In particular to the workers who for the most part, go unnoticed. Have you ever driven by a fast food restaurant early morning to see dozens of Hispanic and Polish men with tool boxes standing in the parking lot? Did you ever wonder why they were there? In fact, often, in the parking lot of a Home Depot or Menards, you may see some workers wandering about. They are hoping that the person who just bought some ho“me-improvement supplies would prefer having someone else do the work. Most of these workers are men who have been laid off or seasonal workers who must still take care of their families. Soma are legal, others not!

In Teatro Vistas new play, American Jornalero, written by Ed Cardona Jr., we have a street corner , somewhere in New York ( this could easily be Milwaukee and Belmont, Lawrence and Pulaski, 26th and Kedzie or any other busy area where Latinos and Europeans can be found in large numbers) . These men are hoping for work. They are laborers, each with their own story and reason for being there. In this play, the men are for the most part Hispanic, with one being Russian ( but who speaks Spanish). The main characters are Michigan ( deftly handled by Ramon Camin), Marcelo ( Jordan Arrendondo) who is waiting to hear from his family, and Luis ( powerful performance by Victor Marana) who is the “leader” of this trio who have become “familia” in many ways.
The Russian friend Montezuma ( played to perfection by Mike Cherry), who in many ways is their link to another world. These four men are the workers that are in need of work. The play, only 80 minutes in length, covers several days in the lives of these men, and on the second day a gringo arrives. His name is Mark ( Dillon Kelleher) and from what we learn, he also has been laid off and unable to find work. An old friend of his, Toby ( Tony Bozzuto) is out to get rid of these immigrants who are stealing jobs from the Americans who have the rights to them. Mark is there to help! The fence that they use to get to this particular corner is mended to keep them away, but they defy the warnings and come through anyway.

Smoothly directed by Nate Santana, on a clever set designed by Jose Manuel Diaz and lighting by Diane D. Fairchild, I found this to be a well done story unveiling the underbelly of our work force that is seldom shown. Kate Lass did the fight choreography and while there is no mention of the props person, he/she did a solid job. The sound (Kendall Barron) and costumes ( Caitlin McCloud must have been at Goodwill for hours) round out the tech aspects of this production.

These are men who only want to live the American Dream. In many cases, the jobs they take would be laughed at by the American worker. They are willing to take lower wages so they can send money home to their families, who they are far away from. They are a part of society that blend into the streets and are ignored by most people. Yes, we see them working in the homes being built, stores unloading trucks so that we can purchase the fruits and vegetables for our families. Yes, they are the people who will take the positions that our citizens do not want, or that they feel are beneath them. Yet, these are jobs that the companies or people need completed.
During these days, we learn a great deal about these men and their lives. We also see that the onlooker, Mark, becomes more learned about his “competitors” and finds himself becoming a “friend”. Can the divide between these men and the average American worker ever be scaled? Can most of us understand that these men ( and I am sure the women who do maid service are in the same position) are not trying to take anything from Americans. They only want to live like the Americans do. In these trying times with all of the immigration “crap” being spewn, I am glad that a theater company has the guts to put this piece on its stage. Well, actually, it is on the stage at The Urban Theatre , 2620 West Division Street ,as part of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance thru the 18th.

Thru – Nov 18, 2018  following schedule