I had the good fortune of seeing Juan Francisco Villa in a his solo show "Empanada for a Dream" which is part of YO SOLO Theatre Festival of Latino Solo Shows. As a visual artist working primarily in painting and drawing I admire Villa's ability to 'paint pictures' through his art. And as someone who doesn't see plays as often as I would like, I am probably a bit late to the party of praise for this actor and this show, yet here is what I can add to the awards, accolades, and predictions of success for Villa and his work.
Juan Villa stands and delivers an Olympic performance wrought with raw emotions as he tells his story through the eight characters he portrays. At once, the audience senses the complexity of each character and Villa’s own complex feelings toward them. It is his story we witness and he doesn’t hold back. He even resists caricatures in that he brings the characters back to us over time and we see their evolution, their demise, and their sorrow.
The performance has the support of appropriate staging, lights and minimal set design and yet the images that arise through the story and performance are rich, colorful, and chaotic. Villa grips the audience and we are his willing captives; we want to hear his compelling story.
Juan Villa’s willingness to share his clear love for this family, this neighborhood, these people who are so troubled and flawed while also ‘doing the best that they can’ translates easily to the universal human condition; all of us are in this together.
Empanada for a Dream
Written and performed by Juan Francisco Villa, directed by Alex Levy
Empanada for a Dream is a poignant and entertaining portrait of family and neighborhood – set against the secret that destroys it all. It’s a haunting tale about growing up by getting out. and coming back – to one boy’s Lower East Side. In English with a touch of Spanish.
Monday, August 6 at 7pm
Saturday, August 11 at 4:30pm
Sunday, August 12 at 8 pm