‘White Tie Ball’ a story of brothers’ stormy lives
By HEDY WEISS Theater Critic September 11, 2013 8:02PM
Gabriel Ruiz (left) is older brother Edward, and Nate Santana portrays younger, troubled Beto in Martin Zimmerman's play "White Tie Ball."
‘WHITE TIE BALL’
When: Through Oct. 13
Where: Teatro Vista at Victory Gardens Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln
Tickets : $25
Info: (773) 871-3000;
Run time: 85 minutes with no intermission
Updated: October 15, 2013 6:43AM
‘White Tie Ball,” Martin Zimmerman’s 85-minute morality play, in its world premiere by Teatro Vista, tells a story at once as old as the Bible (think Cain and Abel and the good brother/bad brother dichotomy) and strongly reminiscent of Athol Fugard’s apartheid-era play (the light- and dark-skinned brothers of “The Blood Knot”). It also is custom-made for our own age, in which matters of ethnicity are a highly politicized national obsession.
Zimmerman, whose program bio describes him as “multi-ethnic and bilingual,” has homed in on this country’s Latino population, presenting us with two brothers who exist at opposite ends of the stereotype spectrum. They are the sons of a long-absent white father and a Latino mother with a history of alcoholism. While the oldest son — dark, handsome Edward (Gabriel Ruiz) — is an overachiever (graduate of Yale Law School, young attorney general in the “border state” of Arizona and family man, with a political career set to skyrocket), his younger brother, Beto (Nate Santana), is a mess. Small, blond and fair-skinned, Beto had to deal with his mother alone after Edward went off to fancy schools, earning street cred in a Latino neighborhood where he didn’t fit the mold. And he ended up in prison for armed robbery.
Now, out on parole and finally taken under Edward’s wing, Beto can’t quite free himself from his old alliances or resentments. So while Edward’s career is about to take off — and his mentor, Spencer (Jan Radcliff), the veteran attorney general, has anointed him as the golden boy destined to carry on her liberal tradition — Beto becomes a serious liability.
In the process, Edward’s ambition drives him to make a deeply opportunistic legal decision involving Jimenez (Marvin Quijada in an absolute knockout turn), a friend of Beto’s, and a gang member. When Jimenez kills a female Latino cop who may have bent the rules, Edward opts for a first-degree (death penalty) murder charge rather than manslaughter,
Under Edward Torres’ direction, Zimmerman’s high-tension play moves with dispatch (and some jarring shifts in time). While its story is compelling and packed with intriguing issues, it feels overly contrived, with far too many perfectly timed coincidences and conflict-of-interest possibilities to sustain full belief.
Note: Teatro Vista, Victory Gardens’ inaugural “resident company,” will present an all-Latino production of Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge” in the spring. And beginning Saturday it will launch “LNTV-Late Night Teatro Vista,” a performance series featuring emerging Latino artists with a gift for storytelling, comedy, vaudeville and more.