Broad Shoulder Productions Presents GRAHAM CRACKER — family and identity

Broad Shoulder Productions GRAHAM CRACKER
Poster courtesy of Broad Shoulder Productions

Broad Shoulder Productions Film and Theater Combo

Broad Shoulders Productions (BSP) tells stories through short films and live theatre productions. This night began with two short films Cool Dog and Holiday Dinner showing the wide talent and creativity from BSP. Cool Dog was a comic look into rescue dogs and their owners while Holiday Dinner looked into the complications of getting all the siblings together for dinner. The latter is something that anyone with a big family can especially relate to and in some ways sets up for the play.

The main event, Graham Cracker, written by company member Tony Mendoza, is a blend of film and theatre, illustrating a son’s struggle to understand the meaning of family, heritage, and identity in the hope of bridging his family’s painful divide.

Immersive Set Design

Crossing the threshold of the theatre door, you step into what could be any unfinished garage or basement filled with memories of the past. Stage right, a twin bed, stage left, a round wooden table and behind it a bar. In the center there are boxes, clothing, and a rake—all important elements that help with the shifting complexities of the play. Three TVs are mounted on the wooden planks. It is a setting that speaks to the unfinished history of the story.

Alberto Mendoza plays both the son and father. Angela Vela is all the supporting women in his life— his mother, his girlfriends and his wife. It is not until the second act that JJ Romero as the father and Beatriz Jamaica as the mother appear at pivotal moments in the story.

Honest Storytellers

Both Alberto Mendoza’s and Angela Vela’s acting is superb honest, and vulnerable storytelling that completely engages you in the story. The actors seamlessly switch between their various characters, sometimes within the same scene. We travel in time from the story of how his parents met to the present day.

Mendoza and Vela physically change with every character dancing alongside Josh Wroblewski’s lighting design that shifts and carries the timeline of the play.

Graham Cracker was in development for three years and it is evident in every aspect of this production.

Deeply Resonating

Take aways from Graham Cracker, will probably resonate deeply with you. It is a powerful play about memories and what shapes us to become the people we are today. We come to focus on how our perceptions of ourselves, family and friends change over time. As a child, a home might seem like a mansion but when we revisit it, it is only a two bedroom house in the city.

Graham Cracker engages us to look back in order to look forward to the future so we can “do it better.”

When the son uncovers the memories hidden in boxes in the basement, he finds that what he thought as children is much more complex as an adult. We journey with him to get a snapshot into how he was raised.

The choices his parents made, and the dynamics of their complex marriage, he now sees differently as an adult.

 Graham Cracker is a relevant and authentic play that pulls at our heartstrings and brings us in to the son’s journey to discover his identity.




Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.

Broad Shoulder Productions GRAHAM CRACKER
Photo: Jesse Folks Photography
Broad Shoulder Productions GRAHAM CRACKER
Photo: Jesse Folks Photography


April 14 - 30, 2017

Fri & Sat @ 7:30 pm; Sat & Sun @ 3 pm



The Den Theatre
1333 N. Milwaukee Ave., 2nd Floor
Chicago, IL 60622





For information or tickets visit


Photos:  Jesse Folks Photography


Note:  An excerpt of this review appears in Theatre in Chicago.

Photo: Al Zayed

About the Author:

Ellyzabeth Adler is a multidisciplinary artist working in the genre of "Tanztheatre," weaving together theatre, dance, film, spoken word, and music. As founder of Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble (CDE) she has dedicated herself to forming partnerships with artists of all genres and generations to create unique, dynamic, engaging, and meaningful ensemble performances.Ellyzabeth earned a BFA in Performing Arts, with a minor in Broadcast Journalism at Roosevelt University. In 2000 she earned a Masters of Arts in Directing and Movement; as her thesis she developed CDE’s techniques for creating multidisciplined, kinesthetic, and socially engaging theatre.  She has created and/or collaboratively adapted, directed and choreographed 10 full-length works including: T.S Eliot’s The Wasteland; Ever Your Own; Edgar; The Yellow Wallpaper; This Is Not A Pipe; Bindis and Bruises; and Touch and Mirrors - one-act plays based on the work of the Persian poet, Rumi. She has also created and choreographed over a dozen concert-length works focused on women’s issues, the female  body, suicide, the human condition, and pathways to enlightenment.

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *