Passage Theater Company bears the title of the only professional theater in Trenton, New Jersey. They open their 30th Season by producing T clan and close friends amidst a family crisis, Songs for the Disappeared embodies a unique Mexican-American family’s experience. Directed by New-York based Alex Correia (INTAR, Cherry Lane Theater, Center Stage NY), this drama is heavily laced with Texan and Mexican culture exhibited appropriately in the script and dialect work. The easy transitions between Spanish and English are seamless and realistic.
Solving the case of their missing elder brother, the cast filled the familiar family roles well. The protective father, Leo played by Felipe Gorostiza is the right amount of cooing father and protective old school parenting. The babied youngest daughter, Nena (Christina Nieves) faces challenges with an emotional handicap since the death of her mother. It is extremely hard to communicate mental illness through performance, and Nieves struggled with this in some of the personal and individual scenes. However, the family connection between her and the oldest, ostracized daughter, Adriana (Vivia Font) was special and evocative. While Font kept up a cold city girl façade, it worked for the character’s distancing personality. As Leo’s right hand man, Mario Payan (Thomas Christopher Nieto) feels like the family’s accurately awkward watch dog, with minor flubs throughout.
The clearly isolated member of the family is Leo’s new wife, Mila, played by Annie Dow. Specifically her accent and speech pattern, referenced as a Mexican “hick” by the daughters, performs every deep and complicated layer of the assumed bimbo arm candy. Her ability to create humor in a dark environment and embody the darkness happening behind the scenes of this character is impressive in a difficult text.
Even though 2012 was only 3 years ago, it’s surprising how the little details set the time. The Nokia cell phones with Bluetooth feel perfectly age. The specific clothing trends of three years ago, are seen in accurate and flattering costumes by Robin Shane. Paul Kilsdonk provides the effective lighting design. Bill Kirby’s sound design plays the oh-so-2012 Beyonce classic “Single Ladies” plays upon a character’s entrance, as well as relaxed string music for scene transitions and practical internal sound cues.
Germán Cáredenas-Alaminos’ set gives incredibly clear location with its stucco walls and shapely arches. The form of the set gives the ability to give external and internal locations of the realistic ranch as well as separate locations in the audience aisle and an offstage desert.
The lighting sets location and time well, specifically the change from day to night in the outside location. The use of practical fixtures also felt accurate a family home. Sometimes the lighting feels uncomfortably isolating or out of place, but generally served its purpose.
Trenton may only house one theater, but it is lucky to have one a producing unique and captivating work such as Songs for the Disappeared.
Running Time: 90 minutes, with no intermission.
Songs for the Disappeared plays through October 25, 2015 at Passage Theater Company – 205 East Front Street, in Trenton, NJ. For tickets, call the box office at (609) 392-0766, or purchase them online.