Simona’s Search – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Life is complicated and messy, even if you believe there are no deep secrets to discover in your family’s past. For a young girl Simona, a curiously obsessed Alejandra Escalante, an incident at the first sleepover for her girl friends starts her on a journey of unfolding all the secrets that her father Papi, a stubbornly silent Al Rodrigo, is shielding her from. His past in Latin America is his business and not hers, as he guards it from her prying eyes. Hartford Stage is offering this world premiere production “Simona’s Search” by Martin Zimmerman until Sunday, February 11and you will be quickly swept along in her imagination and trauma.

Simona and Papi share a dedicated love for all things science, as he compulsively clips articles he thinks will spark her love of learning. Their tiny apartment is stacked with boxes meant to inspire her knowledge. While he openly offers Simona these educational moments to treasure, he is compulsively quiet about any facts of his childhood before he immigrated to America.

With her scientific mind on high alert, Simona knows that dark shadows frame his past, disturbing events that are affecting him emotionally and physically and she feels compelled to know the answers. Along the way she meets Christopher Bannow’s Jake who shares her love of learning and tries through his love for her to help her through the mental health crisis she has created for herself.

This is a compelling tale that will capture your sympathy and concern as you watch Simona risk everything for the answers. Her genetic research threatens to overwhelm her mind as she refuses to stop her search. Go on this journey with her and learn if she ever unlocks the mysterious clues she seeks so compulsively, thanks to the fine direction by Melia Bensussen.

For tickets ($30 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday and a select Wednesday at 2 p.m.

We are all curious about our family’s history and heritage but Simona carries that quest to great lengths to help her Papi deal with his demons and finally put them to rest.