By the Hand of the Father | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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By the Hand of the Father

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Why is it that no sooner do we escape the clutches of the past and begin living our own lives than we become nostalgic for the world we left behind? Or the world our parents left behind? This feeling must be especially strong among the children and grandchildren of recent immigrants, who long not just for another time but another place, another way of living, vaguely familiar but fading fast. Originally conceived by singer-songwriter Alejandro Escovedo, who composed and performs the music in the show, By the Hand of the Father begins as yet another theatrical exploration of the past, specifically the journey Escovedo's father made, physically and psychologically, from his childhood in Mexico in the early decades of the 20th century to adulthood raising a family in the United States. But Escovedo's music is so evocative it enables the piece to transcend what can be an overly personal genre. It helps that director Theresa Chavez, working with Eric Gutierrez and Rose Portillo, has provided such a rich text to accompany Escovedo's music: one compelling story after another--reminiscences, family lore, fragments from the historical record--echoes and amplifies his tale. The result is an elegant, remarkably unsentimental piece--part of the 2001 Del Corazon Mexican Performing Arts Festival--that begins as an exploration of one person's past and ends as a moody meditation on the nature of memory and all family histories. Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 1852 W. 19th, 312-738-1503. May 18 and 19: Friday-Saturday, 7 PM. $15.

--Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/John Buzzerio.

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