Though very sentimental, New Village Arts Theatre’s staging of Tony Meneses’ Guadalupe in the Guest Room is a warm and engaging 90 minutes that confronts profound family loss with dignity and restraint. Part of New Village’s bilingual and bicultural Teatro Pueblo Nuevo initiative, the one-act play tells the story of a mother (Gabriela Nelson) and son-in-law (Tom Steward) grieving under the same roof (his) the loss of Claudia, who was Guadalupe’s daughter and Steve’s wife. Their language barrier and incompatibility are bridged by a shared fascination with Mexican telenovelas, the emoting episodes of which are amusingly acted out by the other two members of this cast: Daniel Novoa, who otherwise portrays a kind gardener who falls for Guadalupe, and Charlene Coleman, playing a teaching colleague of Claudia’s.
NVA Associate Artistic Director Nadia Guevara makes her directorial debut with this little play, and she is gifted with a tender, understated performance by Nelson as Guadalupe. The lighting blackouts that separate the production’s mini-scenes are distracting, but the action is beautifully paced. Meneses’ script about grief comes with its share of tropes, but their familiarity does not lessen the appeal of his sympathetic characters.
(Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 10/10/18.)
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David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.