Classic Always Running Keeps on at Casa0101

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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As anyone who has lived in L.A. for 15 minutes can tell you, there are many L.A.’s here.  And depending your opportunities, you might know a bit about more than your own.  But, in the 1960s and 70s, if you lived in any of the varicolored barrios, those opportunities were few.  That’s the world that Luis J. Rodriguez chronicles in his well–known memoir, Always Running. playing now at Casa 0101, every event, sensitively adapted by Hector Rodriguez, is set against a bare–bones backdrop, designed by Marco De Leon, that fills in for the Las Lomas barrio that made up young Luis’s life as he grew to manhood.  At one side of the stage, a world globe, the type once used in every classroom sits unobtrusively nearby.  This image figures prominently in the story when young Luis is challenged to find his little neighborhood on the globe.  It is the seminal moment in the journey that makes up this compelling production.

Because he also adapted, Hector Rodriguez’ passionate direction informs every aspect of the production.  Even before lights–up, the tone is set with the low-rider music that once prevailed in the late 60s.  Almost predictably, young Luis (played by Rufino Romero) underwent the rites of passage afforded every gang member.  Only the persistence of a composite character–standing in for a series of concerned community center activists with whom he interacted– and a jail term, did Rodriguez finally decide to turn the corner on his life.

With the exception of Romero in the title role, there are eleven actors who work in perfect ensemble, playing the many characters in Rodriguez’ life.  The women play supporting roles amidst gang–life: there is the sweet Payesa (Haylee Sanchez) and the tough–as–nails Viviana (Rachel Lemos), to name only two. The production wouldn’t have been half as affecting but for the dedication of the designer and builders of the set; the era–flavored costumers, with great sounds put together by Joe Luis Cedillo, movement by Corky Dominguiz, production design by Kam Ying Lee and even the graffiti artists: Fabian Debora, and Javier Chavez.  From top to bottom, the folks at Casa 0101 have it ‘keepin on’.

Always Running, continues through November 24th: Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 5:00 pm, but no performances September 27th through 29th.  There is one more special 3:00 pm special matinee scheduled for September 21st. Casa 0101 is located at 2102 E. First Street, Los Angeles 90033.  For tickets phone (323) 263-7684 or online at www.casa0101.org.