Lisa Loomer's Living Out, which opened last night at Main Street Players, is the kind of play that makes you laugh out loud, and devastates you at the same time. The production is something of a triumph for the small Miami Lakes-based theatre group.
Putting on a play with the complexity, emotional overtones, and razor-sharp humor of Living Out would be a tenuous challenge for any production company. But an astutely chosen cast of local actors and masterful directing makes Living Out a rewarding -- and refreshing -- theatergoing experience.
In a nutshell, Main Street Players knocked it out of the park.
Set in Los Angeles, Living Out tells the story of Ana Hernandez (Marina Catalan), a Salvadorian nanny who lands a job working for Nancy Robin (Lali Navarro), a high-powered entertainment attorney living in a well-to-do neighborhood with her husband Richard (Michael Fernandez) and their first baby. Ana is also married, and has two children. Her youngest lives with her and her husband Bobby (Cairo Cangas), while her eldest is still in El Salvador with Ana's grandmother. As a working class couple, Ana and Bobby are trying to save up to bring their son from El Salvador while also paying an immigration lawyer to help Bobby attain his citizenship.
Ana's plight is a complicated one. Nanny jobs pay well, but after two initial unsuccessful interviews where she learns that women with children are not being hired (because nannies with kids are too complicated to handle), she is forced to lie in her interview with Nancy, telling her both of her children are out of the country. After being hired by Nancy and Richard, Ana befriends two fellow nannies. The three often meet at the park with kids in tow and talk about the struggles and peculiar mannerisms and lifestyles of their Anglo bosses. Meanwhile, Nancy also meets with other moms during play dates where the first-time mom is warned about "those people" when they talk about their nannies.
At first glance, Living Out's premise can be seen as over-explicit. Prejudices, misconceptions, and culture shock saturate the plot. But Loomer's script is thoroughly steeped with just the right amount of honesty and acerbic humor that it cuts through the supposed clichés and delivers an engaging and outright absorbing story.
A story this awash in complexities would normally be shorthanded and curtailed by the quirks and limitations of a small local theatre troupe working on a tiny stage. Between the various and quick-hit scene changes and its large ensemble, there are a lot of moving parts in Living Out. But Daniel Nieves' cohesive and simple direction keeps things running tight. The director gets strong performances from his cast, particularly Catalan and Navarro, who commanded the stage with great aplomb and chemistry. Clara Lyzniak as one of Ana's nanny friends, Zoila, was downright hilarious, an absolute show stopper who brought down the house every time she was on stage. Nieves' cast showed impeccable timing with the script's quick-witted humor, while never delving into a ham-handed hyperbolic performance when things got intense, as some small theatre troupes often do.
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Living Out is a complex story that offers no simple solutions. But Loomer's assertively funny and moving script and an incisive performance from a well rounded and talented cast makes this production an improbable and resonant achievement for Main Street Players.
Look for our extended review in this week's issue.
Lisa Loomer's Living Out runs through February 26 at Main Street Players (6766 Main Street, Miami Lakes). Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 ($18 for seniors & students). Call 305-558-3737 or visit mainstreetplayers.com.