Credit: Carlos Garcia Servin

Set in contemporary America and based in part on real-life events, Gustavo
Ott’s play, the winner of the 2016 Hispanic Playwriting Competition of
Chicago, doesn’t have a single protagonist. Instead, Ott has crafted a
one-act, performed in Spanish with English overtitles, with an ensemble of
more or less equally important characters—a cop, a lawyer, a school-bus
driver, an immigrant from Lebanon, another from Mexico, a pair of
rebellious teens—who are all survivors of violence. One couple was at a gay
nightclub the night of a hate-inspired mass shooting, another was at a
heavy-metal concert disrupted by a terrorist gunman, a third survived the
bombing of a federal building.

What makes these characters and their stories remarkable, though, is how
unremarkable they are: in scene after scene we see them acting out the
mundane rituals of everyday life: waking up, having breakfast, sitting in a
coffee shop killing time before a meeting. It’s only in the course of small
talk that we learn of the horrors they have seen and lived through. These
scenes intrigue and tease the audience, but it’s ultimately frustrating
that they never come together into a compelling, unified narrative.

Director Rosario Vargas has packed this Aguijón Theater production
with subtle, strong actors capable of revealing Ott’s insights into the
ways people do—and don’t—cope with trauma. Erica Cruz Hernandez and Ana
Santo-Sanchez are particularly compelling as a pair of lovers, both
recovering from past brutalities, who find a modicum of solace dancing the
night away at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.   v