The House on Mango Street | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The House on Mango Street

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Sandra Cisneros--author of Bad Boys, My Wicked, Wicked Ways, and Woman Hollering Creek and recipient of a Lannan Foundation literary award, a lecture appointment at UC-Berkeley, and two NEA Fellowships--grew up on Mango Street, way up in the northwest corner of Chicago. The House on Mango Street, which earned its author a Before Columbus American Book Award in 1985, is a collection of vignettes descriving life in the neighborhood: a milieu that included homesick Mamasota, who refuses to learn English, the man with no surname who died as anonymously as he lived in a hit-and-run accident, and Sally, who marries at the age of thirteen to escape from her brutal father. It is also the story of the narrator, a girl who "does not belong," making the uneasy transition from childhood to adulthood in the early 1960s. "You must keep writing," her blind Aunt Guadalupe tells the young storyteller. "It will keep you free." Chameleon Productions' adaptation features a uniformly excellent eight-person cast playing 40 or more characters, each one a vivid and distinct portrait. Amy Ludwig's direction suffuses Cisneros's lyrical language with plenty of physical action, avoiding that talking-mannequin effect that plagues many page-to-stage projects. "One day I will say good-bye to Mango," the young Cisneros writes. "[Friends and neighbors] will not know that I have gone away to come back. For the ones I left behind." It is a retrieval mission on which we are happy to assist her. Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, Latino Chicago Theater Company, August 28 (the Firehouse, 1625 N. Damen; 235-1944). Friday, 8 PM. $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David B. Sutton.

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