Chimichangas and Zoloft, now playing at the Raven Performing Arts Theater in Healdsburg through Feb. 11, begins the day after Sonia Martinez (Norma Stevens) turns 40. After spending the day binging on chimichangas, she mysteriously leaves. Her teenage daughter, Jackie (Alexx Killian Valdez), and husband, Ricardo (director Sky Hernandez-Simard), are left grappling with the fallout.
Meanwhile, Jackie’s best friend, Penelope Lopez (Andrea Lizbeth Chavez), has become pregnant. Further complicating things, Penelope’s father, Alejandro (Evan Espinoza), and Ricardo are having a not-so-secret affair. Add in some bigotry, self-hatred and a dangerous viewpoint on prescription antidepressants, and any director would struggle to make Fernanda Coppel’s unrewarding 2012 script into a watchable play.
Hernandez-Simard tries, and does manage to get some plucky moments out of a cast committed to telling this story. Steven’s Sonia, while slow to start, builds to some satisfying emotional moments, most notably when recalling one traumatic bedtime incident when Jackie was six. Chavez does a good job with the emotional rollercoaster of pregnancy. Espinoza is to be applauded for his truthful portrayal of the complexity of being a queer Latino.
Hernandez-Simard is at a disadvantage playing Ricardo and trying to direct. Still, one of the most effective scenes in the play comes when Ricardo and Jackie are alone on stage, having something akin to the first honest conversation the father-daughter duo has ever had. Valdez straight-up steals the show. They are funny, engaging and give the show an over-the-top but much-needed energy boost.
The costuming by Jeanine Gray does not apologize for its actors’ bodies, but instead celebrates them, allowing for a more realistic look at the culture being presented. Props by Beneicka Brown are highly realistic, including a speculum that will hopefully instigate some interesting conversations. The sound design by Tom Luekens is well-balanced.
Hernandez-Simard is a first-time director and new directors, like anyone doing a job for the first time, need extra support. They absolutely do not need to be given the unfair and almost impossible task of directing themselves. Regardless of why Hernandez-Simard was not allowed to put all her focus and energy into directing, with this script it may not have mattered.
Chimichangas aren’t Mexican. Most likely created in a Tex-Mex restaurant somewhere in Arizona, they are, however, a good metaphor for this script: an Americanized stereotype of generic Hispanic culture that offers a lot of big, unhealthy ideas but little nutrition. The Latine community in Sonoma County, including this play’s cast and director, deserves better.
‘Chimichangas and Zoloft’ runs through Feb. 11 at the Raven Performing Arts Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg. Thu–Sat, 7:30 pm; Sun, 2 pm. $10–$25. 707.433.6335. raventheater.org