57 CHEVY, now streaming at San Diego Rep is a delightful road trip down memory lane in this one man show starring Ricardo Salinas. This comedic play provides plenty of characters and stories as it recounts life as an immigrant family, living up to a father’s dreams for his kids, and the beloved 57 Chevy.
It’s an American Dream immigrant story, written by Cris Franco, that is an energetic look at growing up with his father who was a gifted mechanic, worked hard to provide for his family, and had lofty dreams for his kids.
His father got a good job in the US, and after a year of working hard, bought his car, then drove down to Mexico City to bring his family up to East L.A. From one diverse city, to another Junior recounts growing up in America, but living in a house where once you walked through the door it was Mexico. America is great but the kids who run wild are “very, very bad” who have no respect. Catholic school and strict rules aside, Junior enjoys his neighborhood. All of that changes when they move to San Fernando Valley for his father’s work, which takes him to a place where they were the “first and only Mexican’s on the block ” and it was a struggle to fit in. For a dramatic 10 year old living in the Valley felt like a life sentence. He changes his name from Cristobal to Cris, but as he says “shortening my name was easy, fitting in was hard.”
Television and pop culture became a lifeline for him, with comedy, space adventures, and neighbors like “The Munsters.” This doesn’t impress his father who wants Cris to be a doctor, or a lawyer, but (spoiler alert) he uses that imagination to become a writer.
Cris prays for guidance “Paul Newman gringo stalker Jesus, I know you’re out there… “ and he finds inspiration to become an altar boy. It makes sense, he explains, because “the church had a stage, lights, costumes, props, and best of all, a live studio audience.” He loved being the center of attention, along with the priest who was the “Fastest priest in San Fernando Valley” so he could be on time for a golf tee time. (Anyone who has sat through a long mass knows the value of a priest who runs an expedient service)
A quick mass and being the center of attention? As Cris exclaims “Thank you Steve McQueen stalker gringo Jesus!”
Salinas is great as he tells the story, and switches characters, voices, and characteristics with ease and high humor. From school yard kids with the distinctive Valley accent, to well meaning nun teachers, to a priest speeding through the mass liturgy. .Classic show, radio commercials and songs, dialects, and accents – Salinas is nonstop.
Living up to his strict father’s expectations isn’t always easy, and along with this being an assimilation story it’s also a tale of a Father/Son relationship trying to find a balance as situations and expectations change, and customs and cultures clash.
This 85-minute show has an excellent production thanks to the entire team: scenic design by Christopher Scott Murillo, lighting by Mextly Couzin, sound by Matt Lescault-Wood, costumes by Carmen Amon, music by Fred Lanuzo. Cinematography by Tim Powell and projection design by Elizabeth Barrett bring the theatre experience to screen beautifully.
57 CHEVY is a fun and compelling look at family, generational and cultural differences, and the many ways the American dream can be achieved.
57 CHEVY is available from San Diego Repertory Theatre through Aug. 15th. For show and ticket information go to www.sdrep.org
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