(This review is spoiler free)
Written by Richard Montoya and directed by Richard Perez, and produced by the UrbanTheater Company (@urbantheater), the Chicano play Water & Power is an intimate, conflicted, and hopeful portrayal of Hispanic urban masculinity. The play follows eponymous brothers Water (Dennis Garcia) and Power (Ivan Vega) through the past and present as it frames their relationship. In the flashback scenes, their father (Juan Delgado), a hardworking immigrant who works for Chicago’s utilities system, encourages his twin sons to seek respect and power in order to escape systematic oppression. The story is never monochrome, the conflicts that the main characters experience in their quest for power and family are never black and white. The show balances two different stories at its core: obligations to family in times of crisis and the acceptable limits of power. Juggling these two themes is ambitious and complicated, and Water & Power smartly intertwines these two stories to create a play that is both emotional and powerful.
The play was originally written to be set in LA. For the Chicago performances, the writer smartly rewrote the script to reference the Windy City. This, combined with the cramped, one room setting of the play lends the performance intimacy and tension. The script and dialogue intentionally resemble spoken word poetry, but thankfully the performances don’t come across as preachy or unnatural. UTC is renowned in the Chicago arts scene for their satirical performances, and Water & Power represents the studio’s first foray into more dramatic territory. Thankfully, given this experience, the script is peppered with jokes and moments of brevity that help prevent the gravitas of the story from becoming depressing or emotionally exhausting.
Though the show has closed its initial run in Chicago, stay on the lookout for future performances. The play’s charming but conflicted characters, intense performances, and beautiful, poetic writing make this one a must see.