Playwright: adapted by Andrew Lines
At: Tireswing Theatre at the Athenaeum, 2936 N. Southport Ave.
Phone: ( 773 ) 935-6860; $15
Runs through: Oct. 9
BY MARY SHEN BARNIDGE
Classics scholars would have us believe that the ( usually male ) heroes lauded in the great myths accomplished their mighty deeds single-handedly, but plebeian lore teaches that good never triumphs without assistance from humble allies: children, plants, animals, elderly crones and gaffers—even, in this adaptation of a Mexican folk tale, a pair of street vendors caroling 'Cielito Lindo' in the harsh and strident tones of alley cats on a fence.
Our story begins with a young wastrel named Pedro who signs a contract with the devil. When the debt comes due, however, his only hope lies with El Diablo's clever daughter, Blancaflor ( White Flower ) , who agrees to aid him in the tasks that will free him from her father's domination. It doesn't end there—a curse follows the unlucky damsel's flight with her husband-to-be, despite the support of both her and his mother, forcing her once again to devise a way of breaking the spell and assuring their future together.
While goddesses falling for mortal hunks is a frequent occurrence in fairy-tales, the imposition of modern family dynamics on its protocol is a welcome novelty. For example, instead of running away with Pedro, Blancaflor insists on securing her father's blessing—the latter reluctantly given—on her decision to marry beneath her station. And how often do we encounter fables where a foolish youth—whose only attractions appear to be ( traditionally female ) good looks and good heart—is rescued, not once, but TWICE, by a courageous and resourceful Princess Charming?
Even at a leisurely 90 minutes on its opening night, Andrew Lines' script could use some trimming to focus its episodic structure, and a little more practice in the Athenaeum's first-floor studio should speed up the set and costume changes. But in the meantime, Ric Arthur as the shape-shifting El Diablo, Jenn Savaryan and Bryson Engelen as the fugitive lovers, and the irrepressible Yadira Correa, Isabel Quintero and Dana Cruz as an array of facilitators, invoke vivid characterizations to keep us entertained right up to the joyous Jarabe Tapatío that signals our saga's happy-ever-afters.