Victory Gardens Theater Presents ST. JUDE Review— Emotionally Charged

In ST. JUDE, we get the touching story of a son’s tribute to his father through his one man show and testament to their relationship.

Part of the Victory Gardens’ one-actor Up Close and Personal Series, ST. JUDE is written and performed by Luis Alfaro, who tells the story of his complicated relationship with his father and how he processed his death. It is autobiographical and is brutally honest.  Alfaro does not hold back.

This emotionally charged performance takes us on Alfaro’s journey of “who I was” to “who I am.” ST. JUDE is about a personal journey but also about all families and how they affect who we are and who we become.

A Personal Journey

The show begins with Alfaro describing going back home to rural California after learning his father has suffered a stroke. We move back and forth between Alfaro growing up and the events that follow his father’s stroke. There are many stories within the larger narrative and they all relate to the overall theme of finding identity. Scenes from his childhood include working in the fields during summers, family celebrations, and some rocky teenage years, including once running away. The small stories and anecdotes from Alfaro’s childhood all relate back to his father or his personal journey.

Luis Alfaro Photo: Liz Lauren

Religion played a particularly important role in his family life and in the loss of his father. The play incorporates this by having the audience sing refrains to well-known hymns, such as Kumbaya and This Little Light of Mine. The call and response fits the mood of each scene well. Alfaro frequently calls out “Hallelujah” and we are directed to respond back with a loud “Amen.”

 A One Man Show

The show was written and entirely performed by Luis Alfaro. Although he was the only one on stage he still found ways to creatively involve the audience in his performance. Not only did the entire audience sing hymns with him, but there were also a number of audience readings. Each of the readings introduces a new story or scene about Alfaro’s life.

He makes us feel like we are in the hospital with him watching the events he describes play out.

We learn his father is stubborn, strong willed, and determined to live.  Although his father is not there with us it still feels like he is the most important character in the show, all thanks to Alfaro’s storytelling.

Luis Alfrao Photo: Liz Lauren

A Unique Relationship

A repeating image that tied the show together was Alfaro holding his father’s hand. This key image reoccurs at several of the most emotionally heavy parts and is extremely important as Alfaro watches his father die.

He does a wonderful job of inserting humor into his emotionally charged story.. From this writer’s vantage point, some of the more personal scenes are a bit hard to connect to with only Alfaro performing. Perhaps, a few of the scenes would might fit better to an ensemble presentation.

We leave with a better understanding of the role that parents play in the shaping of identity.  We find out what it means to watch one’s parents die. This is difficult and personal subject matter.  Alfaro tackles it well.

RECOMMENDED

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.

Where:

Victory Gardens Theater
2433 North Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60614

When:

Now thru June 4

3:00 pm: May 21, 28, June 4
7:30 pm: May 17, 18, 25, 27, June 1, 2, 3

Tickets:

$20

Available at Victory Gardens Website
Or though the Box Office: 773.871.3000

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

Photos by Liz Lauren.

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