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Monday May 16th

Theatre Review: 'Mi Vida Loca'

'Mi Vida Loca' acting drags down production

Deep Dish Theater Company has opened their 10th anniversary season with tequila and painkillers.

“Mi Vida Loca,” written by prominent television writer Eric Overmyer and directed by Paul Frellick, is a family drama centered around one patriarch’s struggle to detox from a 20-year opiate addiction.

Theatre Review

Mi vida loca
Deep Dish Theater Company
8 p.m. saturday
Arts verdict: 3 of 5 stars

SEE “MI VIDA LOCA”

Time: Wednesday and Thursday 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m. matinee
Location: Deep Dish Theater, University Mall, 201 S. Estes Drive
Tickets: $12 for students, $17 to $19 for general public

Show runs through Sept. 18

Overmyer’s script has the audience laughing at life’s sad moments and caring for his characters’ alcohol-soaked flaws.

The story unfolds on the front porch of an isolated Oregon beach house. A veranda, cluttered by chicken wire, old flip-flops and a burnt-orange hammock, brings to mind the lazy tone of Jimmy Buffet’s classic song, “Margaritaville.”

This impression of wasting away seems to seep into almost every element of the play as the company explores the psyches of characters that are hopelessly despondent at the core.

In the first act, drug-addicted father Ajay, played by John Murphy, grudgingly submits to rehab. His son, Paco, played in a quivering voice by John Allore, heads home to see his father off to the treatment center, “The Pain Clinic.”

As Ajay journeys to and from the clinic, the middle-aged Paco sparks a romance with his father’s live-in nurse, Diana, played by Jeri Lynn Schulke.

Paco’s mother, sister and brother add to the brood and grace the porch to relive the family’s past.

The morose underlining themes are countered by sex, substance abuse and family loathing. A shockingly graphic hammock-swinging love scene ends the first act.

The acting is at its most effective in its treatment of detailed character traits.

Allore’s Paco is “classic, not kinky,” his character insists. The owner of a cinema dedicated to cult classics, he delivers bumbling life stories filled with neurotic charm.

Schulke’s strong-eyed seductive glances at the beginning of Paco and Diana’s relationship mesmerize more than just Paco in the theater.

But the backbone of the play is Murphy’s Ajay. Even though Ajay is the nucleus of both the family and the plot, he has comparatively few lines. Thus, it is not Murphy’s voice that makes him enchanting, but his expressions.

With waves of wrinkles, the actor’s face is one meant for the stage. It is a consistent mold of pain and cynical expression.

But the production’s acting as a whole was inconsistent, and in the sentimental second act, often faltered.

As sister Lulu, Helen Hagan’s softer moments were close to perfection, producing energy and laughs.

But in sudden moments of emotional vigor, such as her alcoholic mood swings, Hagan became too big for the Deep Dish space. Her boisterous portrayal lost effective connectivity with the audience.

Characters often found themselves as the sole focal points on stage, delivering lengthy narratives on the front porch.

Schulke’s Diana told the story of her house burning, Murphy’s Ajay reminisced about the war, Allore’s Paco told stories of New York — the list of long-winded monologues gradually became tiresome.

Delivered alone to a captive audience, these indulgent monologues can be showstoppers.

But “Mi Vida Loca” has too many of these moments.

The ending lacked closure, leaving the audience, like the characters, searching for an indefinite happiness.

Contact the Arts Desk at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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