Chicago Theatre Review
Strong Performances Propel ‘Tamer of Horses’
Tamer of Horses – Teatro Vista
Ron O.J. Parsons is one of Chicago’s most talented theatrical luminaries (his direction of “Seven Guitars” at Court Theatre was easily among the 2013-2014 season’s best), and his winning streak continues with his sensitive treatment of “Tamer of Horses,” which is currently being staged through Teatro Vista at Victory Gardens.
The premise of “Tamer” is a remarkable simple one – so simple, in fact, that I doubted early on that the show could succeed. Hector (played with charm and spunk by Joshua Torrez) is a juvenile delinquent who, on the run from a youth prison complex, stumbles into the horse farm of married couple Georgiane (the likable, adorable Sari Sanchez) and Ty (the charismatic Juan Francisco Villa), two teachers at the nearby college prep academy. Ty, though, is currently out of a job – his classics program at the academy being cut for budgetary reasons, he has resorted to woodworking to make ends meet – so rather than turn Hector in, he decides to take the boy under his wing and teach him, among other things, the poetry of Shakespeare and John Donne, the magnificence of “The Iliad,” and most transformative of all, the ability to read (Hector, an orphan and child of the streets, is illiterate).
It all sounds like the premise of a made-for-TV movie on Lifetime, but Parsons and his talented case bring true sincerity into William Mastrosimone’s play, with Villa especially tearing into the content with formidable energy and passion; indeed, whether he was describing the various scenes of the Battle of Troy to Hector, explaining to Georgiane why he lost his passion for the classroom, or tearing into Hector on the overwhelming repercussions that can result from even the most petty of crimes, Villa is a wonderful presence to behold, though he and his cast members are aided in no small part by the wonderful set and lighting design by Brian Sidney Bembridge and Christopher Kriz’s lighting design – as soon as I walked into the small performing space, the smell of fresh hay hanging in the air and the sound of crickets echoing through the set, I knew where I was.
“Tamer” is not a perfect play – Torrez’s youthful posturing and slang can grow tiresome on occasion, and the ending is a bit too abrupt given how careful Villa, Sanchez, and Torrez develop their characters – but in the hands of Parsons, it is undoubtedly a sincere one that speaks to our times, and that is something that must be commended.
Reviewed by Peter Thomas Ricci
Presented Nov. 8 – Dec. 14 at The Biograph at Victory Gardens, 2433 North Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614
Tickets are available by calling 773-871-3000 or by visiting http://victorygardens.org.
Additional information about this and other spectacular area productions is available at the one, the only, the indefatigable www.theatreinchicago.com.