Like a low-key Latinx cousin of August: Osage County, Mando Alvarado's Parachute Men is a funny, touching, and gripping play that takes several strange twists and turns. The dramedy follows three young men slogging through the shadows of their mother's Christmas Day suicide a few years earlier.
The oldest brother (J. Salome Martinez) has suddenly returned home after abandoning the family. It is Christmas once again, and he's come looking for...well, we're not sure, exactly. Though he is the leading character of the play, he is the least fleshed out. Martinez, however, keeps us engrossed.
The middle brother (Eddie Martinez) was forced to step up in the wake of his older brother's absence, looking after the youngest brother (Tommy Rivera-Vega), a (probably) autistic young man full of boundless energy who yearns to become a rockstar. Martinez and Rivera-Vega are both fantastic. Martinez is the most subtle of the cast, often having his most powerful moments in silent reaction to the events before him. Rivera-Vega's portrayal is honest, lovable, hilarious and sweet. The entire audience was in the palm of his hand at the performance I attended. A young actor with a promising resume, Rivera-Vega may be on the brink of making it big.
All of the pieces of the puzzle are scattered throughout the first 90 minutes of the play, leaving you to expect an explosive finale that never comes. While the final scene fizzles, Alvarado's energetic writing makes the journey worthwhile. There needed to be the scene that brought every single character together - and it never came. Supporting roles are offered in the form of the brothers' step-father (a mesmerizing Adam Bitterman), the middle brother's gay ex-girlfriend (Maggie Scrantom, stealing every moment of her short stage time) and a surprise guest (Elisabeth del Toro, in a role not fleshed out enough to offer any room to perform).
With another round of edits, and a revamped finale, Parachute Men could be a masterpiece. However, the play is quite good even as it is. Director Ricardo Guitierrez stages the play perfectly for the space, and his excellent cast elevates the already-good material. Go to laugh, and maybe cry. Go to see Tommy Rivera-Vega before he becomes a star. Go to see your own family on stage.
Reviewed by Jason Berger
When: Through Oct. 16 @ Richard Christiansen Theater at Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.
More info: www.teatrovista.org