Clemente: The Legend of 21 | Stage 773 | Theater & Performance | Chicago Reader

Clemente: The Legend of 21 Closing (Theater and Galleries) Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

When: Fridays-Sundays. Continues through Sept. 14 2014

This worshipful account of the short life of Puerto Rican baseball star Roberto Clemente has much to admire. Presented by Chicago's NightBlue Performing Arts Company in conjunction with New York's ArtoCarpus theater, the show is well suited to family audiences in its portrayal of Clemente as an inspirational figure who overcame language barriers and racism to become an American sports icon. It chronicles Clemente's rise from a working-class small-town boyhood to international fame as a player for the Pittsburgh Pirates—the first Latino to receive a National League Most Valuable Player award—before his untimely death in a 1972 plane crash while delivering aid to Nicaraguan earthquake victims. Though writer-director Luis Caballero's earnest script is pretty stilted, the bilingual musical benefits from a lilting score (by Caballero and composer Harold Gutierrez), lively dances, and passionate, authentic, charismatic performances by Modesto Lacen and Jonathan Amaro, playing Roberto as a grownup and a teenager respectively; Carlos Miranda as Roberto's brother (the story's narrator); Willie Denton and Xiomara Rodriguez as his parents; Ricardo Puente in a string of colorful supporting roles; and Lorraine Velez, exquisite as his wife. Film footage showing the real Clemente and depicting life in the sugarcane fields of Puerto Rico enhances the story's effect. —Albert Williams

Price: $35

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