ON THE PICTURE : Miguel PÃ©rez and Richard Azurdia star in The last, the best little town. Photo by Ian Flanders
by Emily Dodi
Sometimes you need to take a step back in order to gain a new perspective.
A trip to the famous Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon to see the world premiere of John Guerra The last, the best little town is just the ticket. Located in Fillmore and described as a ‘modern day Our city,âIt revolves around two neighboring families and their experiences of the American Dream.
Produced in the magnificent outdoor amphitheater of Theatricum Botanicum, The last, the best little town is between 2005 and 2009, in the midst of the financial crisis. The families at the heart of the play live in the same dead end but exist in two different worlds.
It’s the Millers, who are white, and the Gonzalez, who are Latinx. Hank Miller (Christopher Wallinger) is the editor of the local newspaper, and his wife, Willow, (Christine Breihan) is a stay-at-home mom. Their daughter Maya (Jordan Tyler Kessler) is a golden girl who “excels at whatever she tries.” Benny Gonzalez (Richard Azurdia) works at the local car dealership and his wife Della (Jeanette Godoy) cleans the houses, some of which belong to their neighbors. Benny’s (Miguel PÃ©rez) dad is a “constant source of frustration,” while his son Elliot (Kelvin Morales), the class’s promotion, seems destined to “make all his parents’ sacrifices worth it. the penalty â. As Maya and Elliot come of age, they experience love and loss, and realize that the American Dream has limits; and these limitations are neither equal nor fair.
âThey are forced to take into account that the life they trained for no longer exists, if it ever existed,â Guerra explains. His characters experience a multitude of emotions and face real challenges, from micro-aggressions to financial instability.
Inspired by that of Thornton Wilder Our city, Guerra created the playwright (Leandro Cano) as a narrator who follows the Millers and Gonzalez for four years. As in Our city, each act of the play revolves around a pivotal moment in the characters’ lives, including personal triumphs and trials and all the dreams and achievements that accompany them.
Guerra chose to place the play in Fillmore, the self-proclaimed “Last and Best Small Town”, as it is a “point of contact” in her life. âI grew up in a big road trip family, and Fillmore featured prominently in a lot of them. I remember watching from the backseat as Fillmore grew and grew. “
Guerra continued his education at the University of California, Irvine, and after graduating he moved to Burbank. âDriving 126 as a young adult during the financial crisis, the growth I remembered from childhood had stopped. . . It sounded like a metaphor for what we as a nation were facing. So, I decided to write this play. . . I started to write and couldn’t get rid of Fillmore.
âIt’s such a beautifully written play, with so much depth,â says director Ellen Geer. âYou see the differences and the complexities in the cultures of these white and Latin families who live side by side in the same city. Their different lives and the way they make choices. When we did a read, I couldn’t believe its power.
“It’s a nice piece,” Guerra explains and adds that he hopes she will invite to the conversation. âFor me, the play is in conversation with all the things that affect the American Dream. Life can be very difficult, but we persevere. This is what it means to be alive. There is beauty, dignity and sorrow.
The last, the best little town premieres July 31 and works in the repertoire every weekend with Julius Caesar and A Midsummer Night’s dream, “allowing to see the three rooms in a single summer weekend.”
The last, the best little town of July 31 to November 6 at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga. For more information call 310–455-3723 or visit www.theatricum.com.