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Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Mary Shen Barnidge

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Playwright: Tanya Saracho

At: Victory Gardens Theater at the Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Tickets: $15-$56. Runs through: Dec. 23

During the 1980s and '90s, it often seemed as if every playwright venturing west of Phoenix or south of Fresno eventually wrote a scathing diatribe of show business practices in California's motion-picture capital. Cautionary tales in this genre usually revolved around an idealistic young artist confronted by corporate philistines caring nothing for art and everything for money. Sometimes the newcomer's ethics remained steadfast, sometimes not, but never were we in doubt as to who were the good guys and who weren't.

Lucia is a Chicago novelist invited by the producers of a television series to join their Los Angeles writing team. When she is assigned only menial duties, Lucia suspects that she may have been a "diversity hire" but vows to stay the course, if only to earn enough to finance her next novel. One evening, while working late, she calls on Abel ( pronounced "Ah-BEL" ), the maintenance man, for assistance and an acquaintance is struck.

If this were an ordinary sitcom, Lucia and Abel would forge an immediate bond based in their common culture and proceed to swap satirical repartee in a mix of Spanish and English. If this were a ROMANTIC comedy, Abel's single-father status and devotion to his infant daughter would make him the perfect match for the brainy young wordsmith.

As it turns out, however, the latter's assumption that the blue-collar Abel is a Mexican immigrant speaking only Spanish is regarded by the native Angelino as the snobbery one would expect of a foreign-born Latina of affluent upbringing. As their camaraderie blossoms, further intra-demographical disparities are evidenced—for example, when Lucia expresses indignation over co-workers mocking her ethnicity, Abel reminds her that many of his peers are refused jobs for that same ethnicity. What neither realizes until too late is that another entitlement attached to privilege is the unrestricted appropriation of other people's experiences.

Tanya Saracho may be the first playwright to reverse the Hollywood-Is-Full-of-Greedheads formula in order to illustrate how easily anybody can become one of the greedheads, no matter how lofty their ideals or initially uncompromising their principles—exploitation being in the eye of the beholder, right? Under the direction of Sandra Marquez, Sari Sanchez and Eddie Martinez ( his fourth time playing this role ) never betray the ambiguity of their characters' fluctuating motives, wisely leaving us to parse the moral issues engendered thereby.

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