[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of Casa 0101’s production of Favorite Cousins written by Lindsey Haley, directed by Vilma Villela and running through May 21.
Casa 0101 has been a hotbed of creativity since the day it opened its doors in 2000 to the Boyle Heights and Los Angeles communities it serves. Playwright and Artistic Director Josefina Lopez (Real Women Have Curves) founded the space and encourages writers, actors and artists of every variety to be themselves, to make art about their place in our world, and to grow into some of the most unique new talent in our city. This new play, Favorite Cousins, is born from this creative diaspora. Its writer Lindsey Haley is on her own artful journey guided by the playwriting classes and Josefina is herself a Boyle Heights native and a writer about the profoundly magical and iconic Los Angeleno and Latino culture.
Favorite Cousins is a play about family…and how death can bring them together or tear them apart. Two cousins, Frances, and Gloria, both mourning the passing of their beloved grandmother, haven’t spoken for years after a terrible tragedy at a birthday party in a local park left Frances’s son dead and Gloria’s son in prison. Their grandmother, before she died, arranged for them to clear the last of her belongings from her house before it is sold, hoping that in this act they would reconcile.
Frances graduated college and married into wealth while Gloria remained in the old neighborhood in Santa Monica, became an activist, and tried to change the gang- streets back into the place she knew as a girl. As children, they lived in each other’s pockets, more sisters than cousins, but Frances’s money couldn’t protect her son from prison or her marriage from being destroyed by one terrible moment and a gun. And as they slowly warm to each other and find their way back into each other’s hearts, we see them not just as two favorite cousins, but as any one of us damaged by hate and violence and life in America.
This is a beautifully written play, full of anguish and laughter, precious memories and hope, framing these women’s stories with a graceful, tender and profound honesty. Their genuine and deeply felt connection is balanced and truthful and very real.
This story is of course very much a part of our own lives. Whether gang related or not, we all live with the heaviness of gun violence. Every day another tragic story, another child taken, a family destroyed. Favorite Cousins reminds us that it could be anyone, rich or poor, no one is safe, and that in the end, we must all work to save each other ourselves as well as ourselves. Frances and Gloria are absolutely wonderful characters and these skillful actors play them with nuance, humor and love. This play has been developed over the years from a short play to this full and well-rounded story of a family. Casa 0101 offers great support to budding playwrights and helped Lindsey Haley hone this play and develop it into a truly brilliant piece of work.
The cast is excellent. Vanessa Arias-Herrera as the street-smart rebel is utterly believable and heartbreaking and Raquel Salinas as Gloria is her equal at every turn. They are the core of the play, but Tina D’Marco as their grandmother’s friend Josephine, who works to ensure her friend’s wishes are made real is charming, sweetly funny and a joy to watch.
Favorite Cousins explores what so many are faced with in our community – gentrification, gang violence, racism, loss of hope, and the struggle to replace the anger of the past with a purposeful future. But it is our relationships and our family that give us the most purpose and the support needed to succeed. And Favorite Cousins is all about family, healing, love and forgiveness….and isn’t that what we all need?
I loved this play. It’s funny, warm, beautifully written, brilliantly acted. It was a delight to watch while also sitting in Casa 0101’s gorgeous theatre, surrounded by community and art lovers and families, all laughing and nodding and brushing a tear away. It’s the kind of experience we all need so dearly after this long three years of winter. Casa 0101 is a mecca for artists and audiences alike, you should make it a regular destination on your calendar.
As a bonus, Maria Brenes, executive director of Inner City Struggles will be a guest speaker discussing the play with the cast, director and producer of the show after the matinee performances on Sundays, May 14 and May 21.
Running through May 21
2102 1st St, Los Angeles, CA 90033
Vanessa Arias-Herrera as Frances, Raquel Salinas as Gloria, Tina D’Marco as Comadre Josephine, Johnny Ortiz as Junior, Scott Golden as Tim (The Developer) and Daniel Ruiz as Understudy for Junior.
The production team for the world premiere production of Favorite Cousins includes: Josefina López, Founding Artistic Director, CASA 0101 Theater; Emmanuel Deleage (of Silver Lake), Executive Director, CASA 0101 Theater, Show Producer; Edward Padilla (of Boyle Heights) Casting Director; Lindsey Haley (of Santa Monica) Playwright and Creator; Vilma Villela (of Panorama City) Director; Marco DeLeon (of Los Angeles) Set Designer; Kevin Eduardo Vasquez (of Van Nuys) Lighting Designer; Doreen Sanchez (of Highland Park) Props Master; Daniel Ortega Corona (of Huntington Park) Stage Manager; Lindsey Haley andVilma Villella, Costume Coordination; Max Brother (of MacArthur Park) CASA 0101 Theater Technical Director and Sound Designer; Mark Kraus (of Los Angeles), CASA 0101 Theater Development Director and Webmaster; Itzel Ocampo (of Alhambra) CASA 0101 Theater Office Administrator and Graphic Designer; Rosa Navarrete (of El Sereno) Social Media; LeeAnna “Sparky” Bowman-Carpio (of Los Angeles) Production Photographer and Steve Moyer Public Relations (of Los Angeles), Press Representative.