Paramount’s 165-seat, state-of-the-art Copley Theatre is impressive; ever since it launched the four BOLD Series stage productions in March 2022, the company has not failed to present stories that challenge, enlighten and entertain. As Artistic Producer Amber Mak said, “The definition of bold is the ability to take risks with courage and confidence.”
Developed through Paramount’s Inception Project, and part of the fifth Destinos – Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, the fourth BOLD production, “BULL: a love story,” is a thought-provoking, contemporary family drama. The world premiere is directed by the talented Laura Alcalá Baker, and was written by award-winning Chicago playwright Nancy García Loza.
“BULL: a love story” is about a Mexican-American man ready to resume life with his family after a decade-long prison sentence for dealing drugs. It is the year 2005, and we meet Bull on the day of his release, returning to his old Lakeview neighborhood in Chicago. Bull is about to discover how much life has moved on without him.
What makes this 90-minute production so vivid and riveting is not the story so much, but the acting talents of the ensemble (three men and three women). “BULL: a love story” can best be categorized as a complex love story with some identifiable and comforting lines. (“You smile at me like people smile at babies,” “Are you going to stand there like a sad girl at the prom?” ) There’s nothing frightening in this production. Bull may be visited once a week by a parole officer; he’s looking for his drug-addicted brother G, and he works with Tio, a cash-only builder, but nothing is truly ominous. Of much stronger consequence is Bull’s attempt to re-establish a relationship with his ex and their middle-school-aged daughter.
Eddie Martinez is an engaging actor. His Bull interacts beautifully and calmly with each character onstage, displaying his character’s sadness, hope and honesty. Martinez makes you taste memories; he keeps the story fresh and alive and is adeptly subtle. You cannot help falling for his fully dimensional Bull.
Andrew Perez plays three characters: Otherman, G and parole officer.
Each of his portrayals is independent. Perez nails the nervousness and exhaustion of a druggy G, and the pen-clicking do-gooder but irritating parole officer.
Alexandra Casillas is Sadie, Bull’s proud motorcycling sister, and she plays her with strength, humor and verve.
Sammy A. Publes is Tio, the neighborhood pal whom everyone knows. He’s the voice of the people, gets to deliver several humorous lines and conveys some heartbreak via his drinking and loose-ends family life.
Jocelyn Zamudio plays Emme, Bull’s daughter, and she is quite credible as a 12-year-old middle-schooler resplendent with her butterfly hair clips and her collection of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. Zamudio conveys those teenage years very well – especially the changing relationship with her mom, and understanding what happened to her father. And please, watch her face in the final scene.
In the production I attended, understudy Tanya De Leon was Sol. She radiates charm, sobering concerns, and a buoyancy for a future for her daughter and the brick house that is so important to her and Bull.
From a stage-stretching clothesline to a working garage door, Yeaji Kim has designed a realistic Chicago backyard complemented by Liviu Pasare’s projections helping to solidify current events and the seasonal passing of time. Izumi Inaba’s costumes are contemporary and amusingly appropriate to each character.
To its credit, the Paramount is the first suburban theater to be included in the Destinos Festival. “BULL: a love story” closes out Paramount’s first BOLD Series run. I already am eagerly anticipating next season.
(The show, which runs 90 minutes with one intermission, has adult language and is for ages 13 and older.)
• Regina Belt-Daniels has been happily involved with theater since the first grade; she has served on theater boards, acted, stage managed, produced and directed productions throughout Illinois, Ohio and upstate New York. She recently directed Elgin Theatre Company’s “I Hate Hamlet.” When not on the road with her husband, she can be found reviewing productions for Shaw Media.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “BULL: a love story”
WHERE: Copley Theatre, 8 E. Galena Blvd., across from Paramount, downtown Aurora
WHEN: Wednesday through Sunday until Nov. 20
COST: $67 to $74
INFORMATION: paramountaurora.com, 630-896-6666