Smile Politely

Moving into Dream Hou$e at The Station Theatre

Three women wearing white hard hats stand in a room under construction in a scene from the production of Dream Hou$e. From left to right: Mariana Seda as Patricia, Laney Rodriguez as Julia, and Gabrielle Demarco as Tessa.
L-R: Mariana Seda as Patricia, Laney Rodriguez asJulia, and Gabrielle Demarco as Tessa. Photo by Jesse Folks

Coming up next in The Station Theatre’s 50th season is Dream Hou$e, a new dark comedy-drama by award-winning playwright Eliana Pipes, opening February 2nd. In the play, Latinx sisters Julia and Patricia Castillo appear on an HGTV-style reality show to sell their late mother’s home, intent on turning the gentrification sweeping through the neighborhood to their advantage. Under the watchful eye of a TV camera, the sisters process loss from their past as they attempt to assert control over an uncertain future in this surreal exploration of family, sacrifice, and resilience. This production is directed by Jacqueline Moreno, a senior in the University of Illinois’ theatre program, and stars Mariana Seda and Laney Rodriguez as Patricia and Julia, respectively. The cast also features Gabrielle Demarco as Tessa, host of “Flip It or List It,” as well as Maria F. Velasquez, Sean McCarthy and Lorrie Pearson as the TV crew.

Moreno, Seda, and Rodriguez all spoke to the importance of sibling dynamics in Dream Hou$e, drawing on their relationships with their own brothers and sisters to make the bond between Patricia and Julia that much more authentic. “As [Latinx] children, we are taught that the oldest needs to take care of the younger siblings, and we are taught to carry a lot of responsibility even at a young age… a lot of what Patricia experiences is very similar to what I have gone through, especially sacrificing what I want for others and having to mold myself to be ‘whiter,’ even if I didn’t realize it,” explains Moreno. At first glance, the sisters might seem like they have little in common: Julia embraces her cultural roots, while Patricia is more distant. Patricia is single and works as an accountant, while Julia is engaged, six months pregnant, and works as a teacher. “I can appreciate the playwright’s skill at creating sisters who are so fundamentally different from each other, yet share so many memories, thoughts, and even say the exact same thing sometimes,” notes Seda. Maybe Patricia and Julia are more alike than they realize.

The central characters of Dream Hou$e are Latinx, but they do not speak for an entire cultural identity, and many of the themes their story explores are universal. “From culture to grief to family dynamics, there is definitely an aspect to this production that I think our community will very much understand and relate to,” muses Rodriguez. Although the play focuses on these two sisters, it does address larger issues. “This play tackles self identity and the problems that arise when we lose sight of that and become someone we don’t really know,” states Moreno. “I also want [audiences] to come away from this play thinking about harder topics like subtle racism and gentrification that is happening all the time in our cities and workplaces. I want them to think about what they can do to change or fight against it, even if it is just changing where you get your coffee in the morning.” If Patricia and Julia are able to conclude the show with a stronger sense of what is important to them, perhaps audiences can do the same.

Since the beginning of the production process in late November, the creative team behind Dream Hou$e has accomplished a great deal. “We’ve managed to create a phenomenal show, and the cast and crew have worked so hard. I think that’s what I’m proudest of,” says Moreno. Over the course of a couple months, the two lead actors have formed the connection that their characters spent decades developing. “I have loved being able to build this intricate sister relationship with Mariana. Knowing that on some level we are doing justice to Eliana’s story is the thing I am proudest of,” says Rodriguez. Although the play sees Patricia and Julia dealing with the pressure of cultural expectations, it is ultimately not about the adversity they face, but the family they value above all else. When describing what she had learned from this production, Seda said the following: “That we should feel empowered to tell our own stories and that there is truth to our memories and passed-down family histories, even if they have been traditionally excluded from dominant teachings of history.” Memories, histories, and more await audiences in Dream Hou$e.

Dream Hou$e
The Station Theatre
223 N Broadway
Th, F, Sa February 2-12, 7:30 p.m.
Su February 2-12, 3 p.m.
Tickets $10-$15, available online

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