BWW Reviews: Teatro Vista's WHITE TIE BALL Uncovers the Pains of Political Sacrifice
It is apt that the opening of Teatro Vista's "White Tie Ball" fell on the same evening as President Obama's speech to the American public regarding a possible military strike on Syria. The President made his case for his controversial opinion, relating his belief that the large amount of people this strike would benefit would largely outweigh the sacrifices made. Onstage at the Victory Garden's Biograph Theatre, Edward, our central character in "White Tie Ball," grappled with a similar dilemma (albeit on a much smaller scale): Is it in good moral conscious to sacrifice one person in exchange for the potential to help many?
Edward's decision becomes quite a bit more complicated when the one person who would have to be sacrificed is also an old friend of his little brother, Beto. As a newly elected County Attorney, Edward finds himself having to prosecute Beto's friend, Jimenez, for shooting a Latina police officer. Edward, having only recently begun repairing tensions with his brother and on the fast track to becoming Arizona's next Attorney General, finds both his political future and relationship with his brother on the line.
Teatro Vista delivers a finely polished production with Edward Torres' clean and noninvasive direction, allowing for the script to take the lead, as it should. Playwright Martín Zimmerman has constructed an excellent play, delving deep into the tensions of race relations in politics and families (including strains between the brothers triggered by the fact that Edward inherited their mother's Latino features while Beto inherited their father's blonde hair and fair skin). Each scene expertly adds layer by layer to the story, despite the fact that the play's repetitive scene structure can, at times, feel a bit monotonous. While there are a couple of moments that feel out of place (including an extremely visceral moment of self-inflicted harm that is never explored further), the characters are so deftly created that the audience finds themselves rooting for each character despite their (occasionally, glaring) flaws. Ultimately, however, the dialogue is the star of the show, creating natural conversations, while each sentence still feeling wholly relevant.
The cast is, across the board, giving stellar performances. As Edward, Gabriel Ruiz gives an extremely
nuanced performance, perfectly embodying the internal struggle between his personal relationship and his political drive (Ruiz's physical characteristics were often reminiscent of President Obama's). Nate Santana, as Beto, impressively embodies the reformed bad boy and Jan Radcliff excellently toes the line between political opportunist and mentor. And, while only in one scene, Marvin Quijada makes his mark as Beto's imprisoned friend Jimenez.
While the story is framed by political struggles, the heart of the play is the relationship between the two brothers. This is when "White Tie Ball" is at its best. With Beto often acting as Edward's moral compass and Beto in debt to Edward for his release from prison, the brothers tread the fragile path of restoring a relationship while still attaining what they need from the other. Whether on a large, international scale, or a smaller, personal scale, this play leaves its audience pondering what is worth sacrificing and, when that sacrifice is made, how do we deal with the consequences?
WHITE TIE BALL runs through October 13 at the Biograph Theatre as the launch of Teatro's Vista's first season as a resident company of Victory Gardens Theatre. Tickets available at victorygardens.org or at the box office, 773-871-3000. Tickets are $25.
Photo Credits: Charles Osgood