CEBOLLAS – Written by Leonard Madrid; Directed by Jerry Ruiz.  Produced by the Denver Center Theatre Company (Singleton Theatre, 13th and Champa, Denver) through March 10.  Tickets available at 303-893-4800 or 

There is always a special bond between sisters.  Even if they haven’t lived close to each geographically for yours.  Even if there are years between them in age.  Even if they consider one of their number a bit of a screw-up.  Regardless, there are always shared memories, shared stories, shared love.  The three sisters in this production bring their differences to the stage as well as their sameness. 

Tere (Zuleyma Guevara) is the worldly but down-to-earth older sister.  She has a heart of gold, but also can’t believe the situation they find themselves in because of her irresponsible youngest sister.  However, when a solution presents itself to the problem they have all undertaken to solve, she jumps in with both feet.  The middle sister is Celia (Xochitl Romero), the practical one who does all the driving and keeps the path moving straight ahead.  She seems to like fun and joking, but when there is work to be done, she gets to it.  Yolie, the youngest, (Jamie Romero who got her start right here in Denver) is the one with the problem through no fault of her own.  So to speak.  I mean, she has found herself VERY pregnant by a man she doesn’t love, who is married, who lives in Denver, and who is right now dead in her LazyBoy. 

And so it begins.  The solution about what to do with the body is drive it from Albuquerque back to Denver, sneak it into the house (Yolie has a key) before his wife returns from her night job.  That’s only something like eight hours in the middle of the night.  But they manage to find a little fun along the way as they pass familiar landmarks to most Coloradans and New Mexicans.  A roadside store with huge carved animals out in front, a gas station with slot machines, the rock at Castle Rock, and, best of all, the IKEA store on the outskirts of Denver.  Along the way, with conversations both light and dark, family secrets are revealed, apologies long overdue are made, and new connections are forged.  How could you avoid not getting closer on an adventure like this? 

All three actresses embody their characters with authenticity and enthusiasm. The script gives them ample opportunity to review family history and common jokes. They invoke the familiarity of family members while also celebrating their differences. It’s an entirely different trip to one undertaken by three strangers for a less fragile reason. This is an unusual slice of life drama with its funny side on full display. A truly touching moment was created by Jamie Romero as Yolie as she acknowledges the place in her life that had been held by her lover. 

Giant kudos must go to the technicians who created the corpse which proved to be weighted, jointed, and colored realistically. Without “his” uncomfortable presence in the back seat, this would have been an entirely different episode in their lives. Yet his static appearance became only the reason for the trip, not the catalyst for the conversations that ensued. As an audience member, as soon as you accepted the situation, he became redundant, and you forgot to look at him. 

The car devised for this journey was also a work of art. Enough of a body to provide seats and a semi-realistic mode of transportation, but not enough to get in the way of the actresses’ entrances and exits. Very cleverly devised. Yet another extraordinary component adding to the reality of the women’s journey were the projections that illustrated the highway they travelled and the stops they made. Projection Designer Alex Basco Koch obviously made the trip himself with a camera out the window documenting every step of the way; then condensed it to fit the time frame of the script. A brilliant addition to the production. 

Those wishing to see more of Mr. Madrid’s work should plan a trip to Creede this summer to see PRIMA’S GUIDE TO FUNERALS, another comedy about three women dealing with a death in the family.  

A WOW factor of 8.75! 

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