“But the body remembers.”
In Lucas Garcia’s Dramaturg Program Note, they speak of the body’s memory. The past builds upon itself, and no matter our relationship with that history – whether it be familial or personal, and whether we choose to embrace or flee from it, the body remembers. The note acts as the perfect backdrop for the piece that unfolds on Steep Theatre’s stage. Isaac Gomez’s script is about a man’s return home. He is about to discover that no matter how far we might try to run, our past is always with us. Sometimes that is heartbreaking, sometimes that is joyful, and sometimes it is a mix of everything in between. Sit back and keep your eyes open, because a great deal unfolds in this emotionally-packed one act.
Steep Theatre presents World Premiere of The Leopard Play, or sad songs for lost boys
Isaac Gomez’s world premiere follows Son (Brandon Rivera) as he travels home for the first time in ten years for his uncle’s memorial (Other Other Uncle, Dennis Garcia). When Son discovers there is more to his uncle’s death than meets the eye, he sets out to discover the truth, causing more family secrets to rise to the surface. Anyone’s homecoming after such a long time away is expected to be rough, and Gomez’s play showcases just how painful that can be. Confrontations with uncles arise, interactions with past romances become unavoidable. Son quickly realizes that his quest for answers will only uncover the memories he tried so hard to repress. Masterfully directed by Laura Alcalá Baker, Gomez’s play is intimate and personal. We get a very clear window into an individual’s journey of grief and self-discovery.
As Son discovers truths from his family’s history, Gomez weaves moments of the past in and out of the present. This convention adds an exciting component to the story, in this writer’s view, allowing the audience to do the work of piecing together details as they come. Baker aids in this storytelling, staging smooth transitions that help us move along with the characters in their journey.
The interweaving of the past and present occurs throughout. In one scene, we are in Dad’s (Victor Maraña) home. Dad and his two living brothers bring to the stage the simple makings of a kitchen – some food, cupboard shelves, and a frying pan. The transition appears to set up a scene in the present. However, as Son watches the transition unfold, his father and living uncles leave the stage. Other Other Uncle enters and takes over. Son approaches, and before our eyes, we travel back in time – to a memory of Son learning to cook with his uncle who has passed away. You too may admire how Baker’s transition gracefully sets up an important component of the storytelling. The lines between past and present are blurred. In order for Son to make sense of his uncle’s passing, he will have to go back and uncover the details that may have gone unnoticed at a younger age.
As Son encounters individuals from his past, all of his repressed emotions rise to the surface – both the good, and the bad. The tough family relationships bring long-standing and heated arguments to light. Baker brings those bubbling and uncomfortable tensions to life in a way that can be felt in the room.
However, not all memories are bad. Gomez is careful to include moments of joy and peace in the midst of the story. When Son finally sees his ex-boyfriend (Alec Coles Perez), the two decide to sit down and paint together. They acknowledge that there are a mix of feelings associated with the encounter – most notably heartbreak. However, there is also love, and they decide to simply enjoy each other’s company and make art. The two sit down on the ground and paint. Perez and Rivera fill the scene with subtle glances and moments of silence, These actors capture all of the complexities of encountering an individual who can represent such a life-changing moment in one’s past.
A brilliant cast and powerful storytelling make The Leopard Play, or sad songs for lost boys a must-see. Isaac Gomez invites the audience on a vulnerable and emotional journey, and this writer has certainly not stopped thinking about the experience since.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Alec Coles Perez
Director – Laura Alcalá Baker
Stage Manager – Jon Ravenscroftˆˆ
Set Designer – Arnel Sancianco
Lighting Designer – Alexander Ridgers
Sound Designer – Thomas Dixonˆ
Costume Designer – Uriel Gomez
Props Designer – Emma Cullimore
Intimacy & Violence Director – Micah Figueroa
Choreographer – Breon Arzell
Dramaturg – Lucas Garcia
Production Manager – Catherine Allenˆˆ
Technical Director – Evan Sposato
Assistant Director – Ismael Lara
Through March 14, 2020
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 8pm
Sunday matinees at 3pm
1115 West Berwyn Ave., Chicago, IL 60640
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.
Click here to read more Picture this Post stories by Lauren Katz.