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BWW Reviews: The Denver Center Theatre Company Presents an Intriguing Insight Into Colorado History with JUST LIKE US


The Denver Center Company is proud to present JUST LIKE US (written by Karen Zacarías, based on the book by Helen Thorpe) playing on the Stage Theatre now until November 3rd. Based on Helen Thorpe's bestselling book, this play follows four Latina girls in Denver as immigration status begins to erode their opportunities - and their friendships. When the crime of an illegal immigrant ignites a political firestorm, the girls, the city and the nation must ask themselves who has the right to live in America when achievements and documents collide.

JUST LIKE US is a fascinating and intimate look at immigration and how it impacts the lives of four Hispanic girls in Denver. Based on actual events, this play is a great insight into Denver history and the debate of immigration that is still a hot topic not only on a state, but a federal level as well. "We're not equals, we're immigrants", really does encompass how these girls envision themselves as they grow up as second class citizens in America. One thing that I actually appreciated about this show was the fact that they presented every side of the argument and unfortunate events that darkened Denver's history and the course of immigration. I was also intrigued by the more narrative approach to show which gave such an introspective insight into every aspect of this sensitive issue while giving it such a sense of heart making the entire evening memorable. Another aspect that I enjoyed was watching the girls grow up in the play and especially Marisela. One of my favorite scenes was when she announced to Helen that she was pregnant and surprised by Helen's reaction to the news. We (along with Helen) come to realize that some dreams evolve from changing the world to changing one life and raising her child for the better. Another superb ensemble piece expertly executed by the Denver Center Company.

Mary Bacon was superb as the narrator and Denver icon, Helen Thorpe and guided the plot with a tenderness and compassion that truly won the hearts of the audience. For as much as Mary guided the story, this shows passion belonged to the mesmerizing performance of Yunen Pardo as Marisela. She was melodramatic and hilarious in the beginning but the thing that made me take notice was the growth and maturity in her characters. The three other girls, Adriana Gaviria as Yadira, Cynthia Bastidas as Clara, and Ruth Livier as Elissa each gave diverse perspectives and outstanding performances. Richard Azurdia showed great over the top contrast as the skeptical, yet caring father of Marisela, Fabián and the charismatic political opponent to immigration, Tom Tancredo. Marisela's mother, Josefa (adorably played by Alma Martinez) was also so sweet and full of concern. I also have to commend the entire ensemble on offering standout and memorable roles in the smaller parts that made up kept enticing the audience throughout.

Director Kent Thompson, along with assistant director Jose Antonio Mercado were a superb duo and really worked well together to honor this fascinating script by casting a talented ensemble that proved themselves in all of their roles and keeping the flow and energy up all while drawing the audience into the plot and controversy of the show. I also adored him taking the ensemble with swarming and transforming the stage for each scene leading to easy and fluid transitions. I really hate to say it, but this set, by designer Kevin Rigdon was not my favorite. Considering how far back this stage goes, I felt like they were limiting themselves with the giant white wall, but I could see the symbolism of the wall between the US and Mexico and keeping the drama in the forefront of the stage. I must say that I did think that they had the right amount of props to transport the audience into each scene. The projections (by designer Charlie I. Miller) were quite expansive in transforming each scene and were a special touch. Lighting design by Don Darnutzer also helped to enhance every scene and were quite colorful in this show. Speaking of colorful, the costumes from the talents of Kevin Copenhaver were perfecto and added to every character and the diversity of the ensemble. I also noticed his maturity of costume as the girls grew up and became women.

Experience a piece of Colorado history and a debate that still rages on to this day through the excellence of this ensemble. JUST LIKE US is intriguing audiences now until November 3rd on the Stage Theatre of the Denver Center. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 6:30pm, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, with Saturday and Sunday matinees at 1:30pm. For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center box office at 303-893-4100 or online at

PHOTO CREDIT: Jennifer M. Koskinen

Ruth Livier, Cynthia Bastidas, Yunuen Pardo and Adriana Gaviria

Mary Bacon

Alma Martinez, Yunuen Pardo and Richard Azurdia

Ruth Livier, Cynthia Bastidas and Yunuen Pardo

Yunuen Pardo and Mary Bacon

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From This Author Michael Mulhern

Michael Mulhern has lived in Denver and been active in it's theater scene for over 10 years. He is originally from Wiesbaden, Germany and graduated (read more...)