Los Angeles Theater Review: ONE OF THE GOOD ONES (Pasadena Playhouse)

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by Michael M. Landman-Karny on March 19, 2024

in Theater-Los Angeles


In a landscape where minority narratives often revolve around stereotypes of poverty and struggle, One of the Good Ones emerges as a refreshing portrayal of affluent Latiné experiences. Written by Gloria Calderón-Kellett, a Norman Lear protégée known for her work on the Netflix series One Day at a Time and Only Love, this play offers a comedic exploration of a wealthy Mexican/Cuban/Puerto Rican family in Pasadena, shedding light on universal themes of family dynamics, cultural clashes, and the quest for acceptance.

Lana Parrilla, Carlos Gomez, and Isabella Gomez

Set in the opulent Pasadena home of the Gomez family, the 85-minute comedy follows a pivotal night in the life of recent college graduate Yoli Gomez (Isabella Gomez from One Day at a Time) as she introduces her boyfriend Marcos (Nico Greetham) to her parents, Ilana (Lana Parrilla from One Upon a Time) and Enrique (Carlos Gomez).

Lana Parrilla, Carlos Gomez, and Isabella Gomez

Lana Parrilla’s portrayal of Mother Ilana anchors the show with her internal struggle between tradition and acceptance, while Carlos Gomez delivers a nuanced performance as a Latin version of Archie Bunker who is grappling with changing times but is unconditionally devoted to his family. Isabella Gomez, though perhaps still finding her footing on opening night, captures the essence of a not completely mature 22-year-old who is navigating her cultural heritage and personal relationships. However, it is Nico Greetham who steals the show as Marcos, the Spanish-speaking, Mexican-born American white boy who has perfect timing as the “straight man”, a “white bread” young adult who maintains his cool around the family’s ever-increasing histrionics.

Carlos Gomez, Nico Greetham, Isabella Gomez, and Lana Parrilla

Kellett’s writing shines through its humor, cultural nuance, and tackling of pressing societal concerns, reminiscent of Lear’s classics like All in the Family. The play explores the complexity of identity, generational differences, and societal expectations with a blend of wit and sensitivity. The characters confront uncomfortable questions about heritage, assimilation, and identity through engaging dialogues and scenarios along with the requisite sitcom pratfalls, double takes. and physical bits.

Lana Parrilla and Isabella Gomez

Under the direction of Kimberly Senior, best known for her work on the Pulitzer-winning play Disgraced, the production is expertly paced and seamlessly blends laughter with moments of genuine emotion.  The elegant Pasadena mansion living room set by Tanya Orellana, complemented by Denitsa Blizakova’s character-defining costumes and Jaymi Lee Smith’s mood-shifting lighting, creates a visually captivating experience, transporting the audience into the luxurious yet fraught world of the Gomez family.

Lana Parrilla, Carlos Gomez, Nico Greetham, and Isabella Gomez

One of the Good Ones serves as a timely reminder of the power of laughter and connection in tumultuous times, offering audiences a much-needed respite from the divisiveness of the current political climate. While gently alluding to today’s charged racial politics, the play ultimately delivers 85 minutes of joy and comfort, leaving even this cynical critic shedding a happy tear at the inevitable happy ending.

In a theatrical landscape often dominated by stereotypes, One of the Good Ones stands out as a heartwarming celebration of Latiné identity and the universal bonds of family. As the lights dimmed on opening night, it was clear that this play had succeeded in capturing the hearts of its audience, leaving them with a renewed sense of hope, laughter, and perhaps a deeper understanding of the diverse tapestry of the Latino experience in America. This production is poised to become a significant hit for the Pasadena Playhouse, with promising prospects for regional showcases and Off-Broadway.

by Gloria Calderón Kellett

photos by Jeff Lorch

One of the Good Ones
Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave. in Pasadena
ends on April 7, 2024
for tickets (starting at $40), call 626.356.7529 or visit Pasadena Playhouse

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

John March 20, 2024 at 9:59 am

The men fare better than the women with Nico Greetham stealing the show. Until his entrance the show is stilted and forced … once he arrives everyone can settle in to some fun. Ms. Calderón-Kellett’s script goes from sitcom-lite to over-the-top preachy and back. Thankfully she mostly keeps the sermon short. In contrast, Black Cypress Bayou at the Geffen doles out equal measure of history and angst but does so in a way that does not feel like you are attending a lecture. In One of the Good Ones, the scene with the flower delivery man is painful to watch and you know exactly what the payoff will be way before it actually happens.


Michael M. Landman-Karny March 20, 2024 at 10:59 am

John, in my efforts to critique theatrical productions, I endeavor to adopt the perspective of a typical theatregoer, one who likely resides within the echelons of the upper middle class, possesses a considerable level of education, and partakes in television viewing. The performance in question, while not epitomizing perfection or profundity, elicited a continuous stream of laughter from the audience on its premiere night. This reveals it to be a spectacle designed to captivate and entertain, rather than to mirror the depth and nuance characteristic of a Chekhovian opus.

Black Cypress Bayou stands as a creation that, though merely two revisions shy of attaining the caliber necessary for Pulitzer Prize recognition, should not be dismissed lightly. However, it diverges significantly from the realm of feel-good entertainment. Thus, comparing fundamentally disparate entities, for me, is akin to evaluating apples in relation to oranges.


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