Virtual Theater: Cris Franco’s 57 CHEVY (San Diego REP)

Post image for Virtual Theater: Cris Franco’s 57 CHEVY (San Diego REP)

by Tony Frankel on June 17, 2021

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional,Virtual


Following the successful streamed productions of A Weekend with Pablo Picasso and JQA, San Diego REP is offering a filmed version of Cris Franco’s play 57 Chevy, directed by Herbert Siguenza and Sam Woodhouse. I have seen and loved Franco’s rib-tickling one-man memory play live with Ric Salinas when it was in L.A., so I’m thrilled it’s returning. The original film will stream from July 26 to August 15, 2021.

Franco’s 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 from their familiar and diverse East Side neighborhood to a new tract home in the middle-class and eerily homogenous San Fernando Valley, where I also grew up. 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).

In his extraordinary one man performance, actor Salinas plays dozens of characters as he paints a deeply heartfelt portrait of a father who would do, and did do, everything he could to raise his family to a higher ground. The show 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 nuclear-family American dream (Franco is right when he says that moving to the SFV is like moving to another planet — talk about being an alien!).

Mexican-born, Angelino-raised Cristobal ‘Cris’ Franco has had a multi-faceted, award-winning career as a writer, actor, producer, stand-up comedian, talk-show host, TV journalist, and openly gay activist who has broken down barriers and built cultural bridges by way of communication through comedy. Cris’s career, spanning thirty-plus years, includes writing for the first Chicano sitcom, A.K.A. Pablo; Head of Comedy for first the bilingual talk show, El Show de Paul Rodriguez; and being a cast member of the original company of Luis Valdez’s Zoot Suit.

He was a writer/performer for the Emmy Award-winning PBS series, Square One Television, and writer for the children’s series Puzzle Place. On PBS, he even had his own talk show, The Cris Franco Show. In 2011, for his comprehensive and enduring work in documenting the contemporary American Latino experience in “a bold, inventive and truthful manner,” his alma mater, California State University Northridge, requested that Cris donate his papers and original show tapes to their media archives. While compiling, reviewing and cataloguing these documents, Cris (pictured below) began reflecting on his life’s journey and started penning 57 CHEVY.

photos courtesy of SD REP

57 Chevy
filmed version from San Diego REP
plays July 26 to August 15, 2021
for tickets and more info, call 619.544.1000 or visit SD Rep
subscribers receive access for free

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