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Review: Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way (Teatro Luna)

By Chicagotheaterbeat @chitheaterbeat

Review: Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way (Teatro Luna)   
Living Large in a 
   Mini Kind of Way

Written and Directed by Diane Rodriguez
at Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map)
thru June 17  |  tickets: $12-40   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
   Read entire review



An intimate look at large-than-life issues


Review: Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way (Teatro Luna)


Teatro Luna presents


Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way

Review by Clint May 

Teatro Luna’s premiere of Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way is a somewhat surreptitious show. What begins as a candy-colored sitcom becomes an absorbing tale about how discrimination can evolve not from the things we aren’t, but the things we once were. This kind of discrimination takes the form of not only the traditional stereotyping, but also the far more subtle patronizing air of superiority. With wit and sympathy, Living tells a tale of two sets of Latina sisters. The only difference between the two is that one is second generation American, while the other is desperately attempting to gain access to that elusive American dream. What seems like a minor difference becomes a hot button issue when it proves too small a separation for the comfort of those who have been given what others desire.

Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way, Teatro Luna - poster
At the center of her own candy-colored universe, Lilly (Isabel Quintero) is a second-generation Latina who is indeed “living large” after a childhood of struggle. She never had children (they “pull focus”), so when her beloved husband Joe passes on, she’s left a widowed busybody struggling to find ways to fill her time and keep the loneliness at bay. Running for the head of the neighborhood watch seems almost a formality, since it’s clear she minds everyone’s business just fine without the title. Keeping her Florida McMansion spotless are two immigrant sisters, both named Maria. “Big Maria” (Miranda Gonzalez) doesn’t look much like her sister, “Little Maria” (Amanda de la Guardia). That, and the naming contrivance, give them an air of suspicion in the eyes of Lilly’s younger sister and brother-in-law, the vivacious Nellie (Sandra Marquez) and hubby Sammy (Madrid St. Angelo).

Proud that Spanish is her second language, Lilly has taken it upon herself to give English lessons to her two young employees from atop her plateau of privilege. This is one of a few instances where an act that seems altruistic is in fact self-serving – it strokes Lilly’s ego to help what in her eyes are two less-than-civilized immigrants desperately in need of her missionary-like influence. To add insult to injury—and much to the ire of Nellie and Sammy— she offers to take them (and Big Maria’s little girl) into her far-too-large home in a move that is clearly meant to alleviate her own loneliness more than it would help the struggling sisters. What Lilly can’t bring herself to admit to anyone is that her outsized lifestyle with Joe has left her buried in a debt she’d rather ignore. She’s all peaches and cream, unable to see the grittier side her sister sees all-to-well. When the reality of the situations—her mounting debt and the Marias’ desperation-fueled betrayal—finally crashes through her walls of denial, it’s Lilly who must pick up the pieces and reconcile herself to her past and present.

Based on real events from Diane Rodriguez’s own life, Living is a cautionary tale laced with hope. What at first seems like an episode of “Desperate Housewives” becomes a far more interesting drama that is steeped in Latin culture but contains several universal themes of forgiveness and the need to remember one’s roots. Briskly paced and filled with stylized scene changes of dance and song, Living takes place in a Lilly’s equally stylized backyard. Designed by Brian Sydney Bembridge, it looks like the back of an oversized Barbie Dream House, the perfect complement to the production’s tone.

As the lively Lilly, Isabel Quintero steals the show, a strong-willed mask covering a far more vulnerable woman. Her perfect coif and manicured lawn are extensions of a life lived in the spotlight of a theater of her own design. She’s a little heartbreaking, balancing a woman whose walls are self-focused but always with a degree of sympathy because we understand just why that is so. The remaining ensemble fails to reach her level, and the few scenes without her get dragged down a bit without her energy to buoy them. I must admit I felt some trepidation when the show appeared to be a pure sitcom-style or perhaps soap opera-esque production with broad comedy and some pandering quips, but thankfully those first few scenes were only a set-up to a much more intriguing dramatic parable.

Cultural assimilation is a tightrope walk many of us take in ways we often don’t even notice. We walk it when we rebel from our parents in our teenage years, when we leave a small town for the big city, even when we start a new relationship. Each of us is a mini-world of interior beliefs and histories living in a larger culture that practically demands conformity while simultaneously exalting the individual. What we do to conceal or reveal, to leave behind or keep firmly attached feeds into our identity in complex ways. Sometimes they drive us to do desperate things we aren’t proud of when that conflict reaches a head. Living doesn’t have a completely neat-and-tidy ending just as life doesn’t have many neat-and-tidy endings. There are consequences and some resolutions, but the struggle continues. Ultimately, it seems to say, we must learn to adapt. Perhaps more importantly, we must forgive—both ourselves, and each other.


Rating: ★★★½



Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way continues through June 17th at the Viaduct Theatre, 3111 N. Western (map), with performances Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, Sundays at 3pm and 6pm.  Tickets are $12-$40, and are available by phone (773-296-6024) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at  (Running time: 90 minutes)

Review: Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way (Teatro Luna)


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