The Phoenix Theatre's latest production, Guapa, is based on an occasionally poetic but consistently unfocused script that leaves much to be desired. Presented as a National New Play Network rolling world premiere, the ensemble piece paints a vivid picture of a Hispanic family struggling in the vastness of the Texas landscape.
Patricia Casteñeda is intense as Roly, a single mother who takes on two additional charges as she struggles to make sense of the world. Her two children, Pepi (Magdelena Ramos) and LeBon (Guero Loco), along with their cousin Hakim (Adrian Gomez) are likewise believable in their struggle to negotiate cultural divides.
Alas, sole Equity actor Phebe Taylor stands apart from her cohorts in her almost cartoonish portrayal of the title role. Her character, an outsider who sets the play in motion, should, by design, stand at a certain distance from the proceedings. But it's a shame that Taylor accomplished this aloofness by opting for a performance style less realistic and convincing than her cohorts'.
Playwright Caridad Svich's new script contains wonderful poetic bursts, but its story fails to pull them together. Perhaps as the script gains legs in future productions, the play will find a way to ground itself.
Two performances of this show during the last weekend of its run (Jan. 18-20) will be presented entirely in Spanish.