"Fish Men" (Goodman Theatre and Teatro Vista): Solid Second Act

"Fish Men" (Goodman Theatre and Teatro Vista):  Solid Second Act

“They took my dreams and replaced it with nightmares.  But they don’t have my awake time.”  -92 in FISH MEN

#93.  Goodman Theatre, in conjunction with Teatro Vista, presents the world premiere of FISH MEN.  Things are heating up at Washington Park.  What started as daily game playing shifts into a high stakes quest for humanity.  The local chess players take on the new guy.  He seems like an easy target but they soon realize he’s not the pawn in this chess game.   Every strategic move is anchored in a player’s personal story.   FISH MEN  levels the playing ground for diversity and adversity.

Playwright Candido Tirado fills the park with character: Jew, Native American, Russian, African American, Guatemalan, Chinese, Caucasian.  It’s a microcosm of life experiences. Tirado uses the ordinary park setting for these men to share extraordinary stories.  Under the direction of Edward Torres, the first act over-establishes the mundane park routine. Torres paces it sluggish.  The audience is literally watching men play chess in the park. It’s lulling. Checkmate!  But then the real game starts in Act 2, deliberate moves expose vulnerability. Now, losing is a bigger gamble.  The audience invests in the action and the people.

Raul Castillo (Rey) is heartbreakingly riveting.  Castillo shows a range of emotion from victim to oppressor.  It’s Castillo’s moment of truth that moves the audience to a disquieting whimper.  Helping Castillo reach that point is an ever so charming Howard Witt (92).  Witt stuns as a masterful storyteller.  Witt narrates his imagery so distinctively that the visual almost becomes real.  I see what he’s saying... exactly.  Powerful!  In a supporting role and with perfect comedic timing, Kenn E. Head (PeeWee) nails the one liners with hilarious results. Head’s humorous delivery cuts the dullness and tension throughout the show.

Overall, FISH MEN is a powerful story that seems watered down. Tirado creates eight diverse characters.  Although the United Nations effect is nice, a few of the characters are superfluous to the plot.  Trying to work their dialogue into the action slows down the movement.  It feels unnecessarily clunky especially in Act 1.  Still, FISH MEN redeems itself with a solid second act that brought my audience to their feet in thunderous applause.  When was the last time you saw that for a chess match?

Summing up their experience in three words, these guys describe it with....

Eddie: thoughtful, poignant, touching

Brad:  slow, unappealing, masculine

Luke:  Act 2 better

Paul:  thought-provoking, challenging, emotional

Jim:  Some nudity please!

Production photograph courtesy of Dean La Prairie

Running Time:  Two hours and thirty minutes includes an intermission.

At Goodman Theatre in the Owen Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn

Written by Candido Tirado

Directed by Edward Torres

April 29th at 2pm and 7:30pm

May 1st, 2nd, and 3rd at 7:30pm

May 4th and 5th at 8pm

May 5th and 6th at 2pm

Buy Tickets at www.goodmantheatre.org

Leave a comment