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First Class
THEATER REVIEW
by Mary Shen Barnidge
2013-09-24

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Playwright: Candido Tirado. At: Urban Theater Company, 2628 W. Division St. Tickets: 312-239-9783; www.urbantheaterchicago.org; $20 . Runs through: Oct. 22

There's these two brothers, you see—a premise unlikely to excite anticipation in a season rife with Cain-and-Abel fables. The additional news that the brothers are Latino gang-bangers is hardly original, either, nor is their professed goal of escaping the mean streets while remaining loyal to their homeys. Consider, however, the negotiations of countries encumbered with long histories of mutual hostility—e.g., Ireland and England—their progress obstructed by endless you-betrayed-us and you-owe-us accusations demanding resolution before peace can even be discussed.

Candido Tirado sets up his conflict at his play's very outset, as scrapper Apache awakens on a park bench after a beer binge, only to be greeted by pretty-boy Speedy slicked out in an Armani suit. Gradually, we learn that they aren't actual family—that Apache took the younger Speedy under his wing years earlier, sheltering him from the brutality of guerrilla warfare in the South Bronx. We also learn that Apache's mother, who opened her home to Speedy, has recently died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the circumstances of which haunt both men. Apache's plan now is to start his own courier service ("NEED A ERRANT RUN?" reads his hand-lettered placard), while Speedy has aligned himself with a rich and powerful godfather.

Tirado is fond of restricted physical boundaries within public landscapes, in this case locating his entire action on a shabby pedestrian island. Ah, but to Apache and Speedy, this spartan concrete patch represents a fortress where, a few months after parting ways in an outburst of spite and vituperation, the former plies his trade and the latter seeks refuge from his employer's thugs. Apache has wearied of fighting, but as Speedy pleads for his surrogate sibling's aid, the former allies come to recognize the futility of their quarrels and together prepare to face their common enemy.

Urban Theater's minuscule storefront facilitates Tirado's microcosmic universe, augmented by the ambient sounds of city traffic outside on Division Street. Under Juan Castañeda's dexterous direction, Hank Hilbert and Ivan Vega hit the ground running and never allow the tension to cease for the entire two hours of what would be a much longer play on a larger stage (and a less violent one without John Moran's scorpions-in-a-snifter choreography for knives and guns).


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