Review "Freedom, NY": Captivating Destination

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FREEDOM, NY 
At Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont
Written by Jennifer Barclay
Directed by Joe Minoso
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru June 12th
Running Time:  One hour and fifteen minutes with no intermission
Audio Podcast at ITUNES 
Narrated by Joshua Volkers

Reviewed by Katy Walsh
As a community recovers from a tragic school shooting, a mysterious foreigner moves in to the neighborhood.  Teatro Vista presents FREEDOM, NY.  Portia is a home schooled twelve-year old.  Her entire world is now within the confines of her grandma's house and yard.  Her grandma plays many roles; mother, father, teacher and Justice of the Peace.  Publicly appointed to settle neighborhood squabbles, Justice Mayflower holds court on her porch.   When the area gossip focuses on the new Mexican transplant and his hole digging, Mayflower's escalating suspicions lead to conviction.  Invited over for a glass of iced tea, Gabriel is startled to be on trial.  He faces a lynch mob, judge and jury, all rolled into a woman certified from a weekend legal tutorial. Portia must choose between the safety of the familiar or the comforting prospect of the unknown.   FREEDOM, NY is a desirable location for anyone looking for a trip to independence.  
freedom pie.jpegPlaywright Jennifer Barclay tackles multiple current hot buttons:  the vulnerability of schools as targets for violence, unchecked power of the Justice of Peace system, and national insecurity with Mexicans' immigration.  She adds in timeless themes of mother-daughter angst, mother-son adoration and teenage rebellion.  She tosses in gardening tips on marigolds and cultural education on Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Barclay packages it as a tight and riveting introspective on community.  Under the direction of Joe Minoso, conversations overlap and explode as genuine human interaction.  Utilizing a talented trio of actors, Minoso smoothly paces the Americana and Mexican culture clash with apple pie verse mole distinction.  
freedom 2.jpegCheryl Lynn Bruce (Mayflower) commands the stage and her neighborhood with self-righteous entitlement.  Bruce bullies her daughter, her neighbor, and her town.  She contrasts this confident facade with desperate, rambling phone calls.  The interspersed vulnerability is heart-breaking powerlessness.  Desmin Borges (Gabriel) plays a vivid and colorful devoted son.  His lively conversations with and about his mother inspire 'ahhhhh' and laughter.  Borges is engaging in his eccentric resolution to honor his ethnic traditions.  Paige Collins (Portia) gives a beautifully simplistic and poignant performance.  Questioning her past, her present and her future, Collins awakens on stage with charming innocence and decisiveness.    
The cultural diversity is enhanced by Set Designer Regina Garcia.  The stage has two houses. One house is quaintly painted powder-blue with a rocking chair on the porch and surrounded by a garden.  The other house is dark, worn and in shambles.  The yard has weeds in it and a big hole.  The contrast is heightened as Gabriel adds his own personal touches to his landscape, a plethora of colorful fake flowers, skull heads and dancing skeletons.  The scandalous visual adds to the neighborhood displeasure.  
FREEDOM, NY is a captivating destination to explore prejudice.  Barclay and Minoso have mapquested it for the most direct route.  Garcia ensures that the changing scenery adds an interesting view.  And when you get there, the cast will welcome you with their varying interpretations of hospitality.         

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