Somewhere Out There

    Dancing across family values and the importance of dreams, Matthew Lopez’s semi-autobiographical “Somewhere” follows the Candelarias, a showbiz-obsessed Puerto Rican-American family living in 1960 New York City. As the Candelarias grow restless with fantasies of stardom, the looming threat of eviction and their apartment’s demolition hangs (literally) overhead.

    At the helm of the quixotic chaos is headstrong matriarch Inez Candelaria (Tony Award-winner Priscilla Lopez) who, despite her insistence on tap lessons, her impromptu dining room dance numbers and a slew of creative Spanish obscenities, cannot seem to convert her stubbornly pragmatic, yet most artistically gifted, middle-son Alejandro (Jon Rua). But the family’s luck begins to turn as youngest Rebecca (Benita Robledo) lands a role in the film version of “West Side Story” (which, incidentally, is being filmed outside the Candelaria home) and Alejandro begins secretly writing a screenplay chronicling the outlandish stories of his mysterious and absent father.

    But the plot borders on the saccharine, combining family sentimentalism with Broadway dreams like a cross between “7th Heaven” and “Fame.” When Alejandro inevitably learns to embrace his suppressed talents, it’s like a scene from a long-forgotten sitcom.

    Not that the emotion isn’t well executed.

    Beautifully incorporating the arena-style architecture of the Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, designer Campbell Baird’s set, subtly accented with quaint, retro furniture, checkered linoleum floors and warm fill lights, places the audience directly in the cozy living room scene. It’s a near-perfect environment for the play’s naive and lovable characters, many of whom carry out conversations on the stairwells, creating a uniquely intimate experience for the viewer. Around the stage, the iconic winding fire escapes from “West Side Story” tower over the daydreaming Candelarias, monumentalizing both the setting of the play and the thrilling climb to the top of Broadway fame.

    Hailing from a variety of theatrical backgrounds, each actor of the five-person cast makes evident his or her preferred style, sadly highlighting “Somewhere”’s inconsistency more than its diversity. Seasoned Broadway vet Priscilla Lopez (“In the Heights,” “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in Ukraine”) too often seems claustrophobic — her excessive gesturing and Vaudevillian over-acting proving awkwardly distracting in such close quarters. Lopez’s cartoonishness is further amplified when paired with Rua’s downplayed realism — the duo’s conversations consequently exude unintended surrealism in nearly every scene.

    But Matthew Lopez’s breezy script and likable, uncomplicated characters make these snags easy to overlook. Juan Javier Cardenas’ Brando-loving Francisco Candelaria is consistently hilarious, from his straight-faced delivery during the opening scene’s mock gun battle to his extended slapstick routine while miming Alejandro’s freshly-penned script. Leo Ash Evens’ confusing but nevertheless entertaining role as family friend Jamie MacRae (the only non-Candelaria in the play) provides the apparently necessary token white guy/tap dancing, as well as some of the production’s more impressive choreography.
     
    In fact, the dancing almost always overshadows the plot. Choreographer Greg Graham’s intricate numbers interrupt “Somewhere”’s soap opera sentimentalism, transporting us to an impressionistic dream wherein characters reveal their emotions through raw movement.
     
    Though the gorgeous production and memorable characters point to an undeniable heart at its core, “Somewhere”’s harmless, generic storytelling prevents the play from ever transcending a pleasant two-step down memory lane.

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