Los Angeles Theater Preview: ’57 CHEVY (Los Angeles Theater Center)

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by Tony Frankel on November 1, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles

HOW BROWN WAS MY VALLEY?

The San Fernando Valley has always creeped me out. My family moved from Anaheim to Canoga Park (now West Hills) in 1971 (two weeks before the earthquake, thank you). For the next 11 years I never felt like I fit in. It was like it was haunted or something. White people…check. Jews…check. So based on race and ethnicity, I should have felt right at home. But culturally, something was amiss. It seemed that the SFV was for families who wanted to avoid counter-culture and backtrack to those dreamy, nonexistent days of the Beaver Cleaver household. Soon, the same Idiot Box that slathered us in that Leave it to Beaver fantasy also brought us the more realistic All in the Family. But if any enclave clung tenaciously to that 1950’s ideal of the Nuclear Family, it was that giant suburb of nowhere: The San Fernando Valley.

fabulous-sfv-front

So if that was my experience, what could it have possibly been like for comedian and writer Cris Franco (pictured below, possibly inventing the air quote)? His dad, a brilliant mechanic, had arrived in L.A. from Mexico (legally I should add) in the late ‘50s. He saved enough money to pay cash for the symbol of American success—a ’57 Chevy—and drove back to Mexico, returning to the U.S.A. with the entire Franco family. After Cris spent his early childhood in South Central L.A. (a “happy wonderland of cultural diversity” per Cris), the family moved to the eerily homogenous San Fernando Valley. Everything and everyone was similar except for Cris, who was the only Mexican boy in his new neighborhood. (My only exposure to Latinos was the rumor/urban legend that they all gathered Wednesday nights on Van Nuys Boulevard to cruise in their Chevys).

Cris Franco.

Now, Cris’s boyhood and SFV culture shock have been turned into a rib-tickling one-man play that opens November 5, 2015, at the Los Angeles Theater Center. ’57 Chevy, which stars Culture Clash founding member Ric Salinas, gives insight into double immigrants—those who went from their homeland searching for opportunity in a U.S. barrio, and then to the land of color TV and the middle-class American dream. And Cris is right when he says that moving to the SFV is like moving to another planet (talk about being an alien!).

luther C

I have to note here that when Cris’s dad picked up the family, it was right around the time that I was born in Mexico; when Cris’s family lived in South Central, my dad owned a Midas Muffler shop there; and Cris and I both lived in the San Fernando Valley at the same time, ended up at Cal State Northridge theater department together, became friends, and now Cris is writing about his experience, and I’m writing about Cris, and neither one of us is making any money off of it. I told you the San Fernando Valley was haunted.

Chevy57_Page’57 Chevy
The Latino Theater Company
Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St.
November 5 – December 6, 2015
EXTENDED to December 20, 2015
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 3
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit LATC

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