By Roz Friedman
Family angst with a Latin beat, music (Original Music by Bill Sherman), exquisite dancing choreographed by Greg Graham and Giovanna Sardelli's fresh direction create an extraordinary experience! I have seen over 50 plays and musicals both here and in Connecticut since September and nothing can compare to the extraordinary new play with music by Matthew Lopez now at the Hartford Stage through May 4. It is called Somewhere. Remember that name, for it sure to have a future on Broadway -- hopefully in a small house. I was privileged to present Matthew Lopez with the 2010-11 Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Playwrighting Award for The Whipping Man, which premiered at NY's City Center; then it went on across the country and to a great production at the Hartford Stage.
Somewhere immediately brings to mind the works of Tennessee Williams, particularly The Glass Menagerie, for it concerns a hard-working young man, who used to dance, Alejandro Candelaria, created by the outstanding actor/dancer Michael Rosen, his relationship to his family, his delightful mother, Inez, devoted to the idea that her whole family will be stars in show biz and musical comedy, played by beautiful Priscilla Lopez, his younger wilder brother, Francisco, who wants to be an actor like Marlon Brando, an intense Zachary Infante, and a younger sister, a ballet student Rebecca, lovely Jessica Naimy. An absent father haunts their lives.
As in The Glass Menagerie, there is a portrait of their dad, a singer and dancer, who left to pursue his career, sends sporadic letters, and disappears. (This is also true of A Raisin in the Sun, where dad's photo hangs on the wall and his influence is strongly felt.) Where Williams' play was dark and moody, in Somewhere, though the family is fraught with problems, an exploration of NY city life, has a happy, juicy point of view, punctuated by the pulsing beat of Spanish music and a love of the musical, West Side Story.
When the play opens in 1959, the Candelaria family, well-costumed by Amy Clark, has just received a notice that their crowded home, designed with detail by Donyale Werle and lit in cinnamon tones by Philip S. Rosenberg, will be demolished in 30 days. We find out that it is the site where Lincoln Center is being built. Alejandro tries to get his mother to face reality, but she refuses, only agreeing to leave the apartment when a letter from her long lost husband arrives and explosions rock the premises. After they move into scruffier surroundings, their adopted son, Jamie, a part played by fine dancer Cary Tedder, appears on a nearby street, where they are shooting the film of “West Side Story.” He has become a success as director Jerome Robbins' assistant. His dinner invitation to the famed choreographer/director is a failure, but he does audition his family and after some work, Becca is thrilled to be accepted. Her hopes to meet her father in LA forces Alejandro to admit a secret, at least to his mother. And she steps up to the plate by telling her daughter that dad is on the road again.
The coda to Somewhere, is a fantastical ballet, joyous and emotional, in which all members of the cast take part. The two hours and 45 minutes with only one intermission flew by. This is one of the few plays that I would like to see again.
(This review originally aired on WMNR Fine Arts radio.)