Subtext Theatre Company Presents A PRAYER FOR THE SANDINISTAS Review – Heartwarming

A long awaited reunion between three sisters erupts in dissonance, as unremittingly pent up dissent inevitably comes to light. Photo: John Oster
Kassia (Hilary Hensler), confesses to Fr. Wozec (Louis Smrtnyk), the caring pastor she and her sisters have known since childhood. Photo: John Oster

The Subtext Theatre Company Hits Home

For a devoutly Catholic Polish family, news of the newly inaugurated Pope John Paul II visiting Chicago brings both excitement and duress.  The wavering faith of a young man is cultivated further into antipathy towards the church, as a skirmish of discordant ideologies emerges at the apex of this monumental event.  As both family and friends--some members of the faith, some members of resistance-- coalesce in the home of the Blaczk clan, a series of unintended revelations draws out the truth behind his mother's deepest regret.

Under the delicate and enlivening command of director Jonathan Hagloch, a diverse blend of industrious stage actors flourish, breathing dimensionality into playwright Leigh Johnson’s cast of charitable, yet humanly flawed characters.


Not so Much a Political Statement, but a Heartfelt Tale

The talented cast lends a tender warmth that surrounds each member of the story.This spirit is all the more accessible in this small-scaled production.  We feel and intimacy with the actors.

In spite of its title, "A Prayer for the Sandinistas," is neither wholly religious nor political, so even those who are uncomfortable with either topic should not be disinclined.  And though its narrative generously provides the audience with showmanship revolving around mature and intricate topics such as morality and war, it does so with a modest and tasteful delicacy, appropriate even for young children. 


An Exploration of Humanity and Drive

Political turmoil and religious conflict set the stage, where the differences between members of a family parallel the clash of disconsonant temperaments and ideologies. For much of the play, tension lingers in the air, often overpowering any burgeoning sense of cheer. There does exist though, the occasional moment of relief, and such moments are all the more gratifying and worthwhile, given their intentionally considered scarcity.

Perhaps the most invigorating aspect of this production is its humble and honest nature.  It manages to navigate the nuance of human morality in a cordial and plausible manner.  Despite taking place in a very particular moment in history, the messages conveyed stand the test of time.  The specificity of the religion and politics are merely contextual.  The crux of this story is an exploration of what compels a person’s actions, and how that intersects with the actions of those around them.

Victor Maraña passionately reveals his epiphany to his suspiciously perplexed comrade, Gloria Alvarez. Photo: John Oster

Lessons Everyone Can Relate To

A PRAYER FOR THE SANDINISTAS is ultimately a story of virtue and understanding, where at its core, redemption can always be found.

We can empathize with every character portrayed.  History significantly shapes each backstory, bringing clarity and understanding to even the most misguided intents. There is not a single character in the story so deliberately antagonistic so as to elicit total repudiation.  Nor is there anyone depicted with chastity so absolute that the viewer cannot relate. Even the modus operandi of the story's most definitive villain is mitigated through an apparent exposition of tragedy.

With its focus on family and neighborly ties, this play is as much ideal for couples as it is an evening out with relatives and friends.


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.

The bond between Kassia (Hilary Hensler) and her son Johnny (David M. Hartley) demonstrates the ebb and flow of family dynamics. Photo: John Oster


Now thru June 11, 2017
Friday - Saturday @ 8:00 PM
Sunday @ 3:00 PM


Prop Theatre
3502 N Elston Ave, Chicago


$25, Available at (

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

About the Author:

Julius Bautista is a Chicago based visual artist and USMC veteran with a fondness for philosophy, theater, music and film. Since pursuing a BFA at the University of Illinois at Chicago, he has worked in various artist collectives with the goal of  increasing accessibility to the arts.  His work, a contemporary interpretation of Pop Art, has shown in galleries nationwide.  His portfolio can be found at

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