Diana Garle (Sophie Carillo, Liz Cavanaugh) and Daniel Llaca (Salvador Ramirez, Santiago Ramirez)
BY C. PINEDA, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG – Recently, I had the delight of seeing Jerry Montoya’s “Nosotros La Gente” (“We the People”) streaming on American Stage’s digital platform, which runs through Dec. 20.
Montoya invites the audience to journey along with Sofie Carillo as she starts her new life on fertile land in the desert of California cultivated by two brothers, each with a dream for their American lives. This is the story of a family bound by love, loyalty and land.
Actor Diana Garle skillfully conveys the strength and determination of the main protagonist, Sophie Carillo, while artfully embodying the character’s joyous playfulness and sensuality towards Santiago Ramirez, the handsome date-farmer.
Garle turns to the audience throughout the performance to share insights and narrate, at times using colorful Spanish words increasing the authenticity of the performance.
Add a southernish dialect and minimal costume shifting, and Garle takes on the challenges of playing the minor roles of Liz Cavanaugh and her father Mr. Cavanaugh. Garle’s approach to the two minor characters becomes a lighthearted invitation to believe in the transformation.
The passionate Santiago is played by Daniel Llaca, who also portrays strong and loyal Salvador, his brother. Llaca gives a credible performance in both roles. A helpful yet slight costume addition allows the audience to quickly distinguish between the two brothers before a word of dialogue is spoken.
The personal relationship between Llaca and Garle is evident in the genuineness of their onstage collaboration. The affinity comes across to the characters they play.
Production specialists Rachel Harrison, Jerid Fox, Benjamin Ismai, Jill Castle, and Daniel Llaca successfully combine traditional stage lighting, set decoration, costumes, and sound with effective digital tools and a green screen to enhance the streaming experience.
Most scenes take place in a rustic barn with images of date palms and glowing night skies flashed between the open doors to set the mood, time and place. Flashes of black and white family pictures encourage the viewer to step back one generation in time to what that may convey.
Costumes are minimalistic and well suited to the characters.
The music complements the scenes and interactions, setting the mood and expressing the energy in the story. In one scene, Sultry rhythms give credence to the theater advisory that this material is intended for ages 12 and up due to adult situations, language, and alcohol use.
Co-directors Montoya and Kristin Clippard deliver an impassioned story that compels the audience to reflect on the family’s importance in the human experience.
We find similarities between our lived experiences and this family’s journey through difficult times to push ahead despite hardship. “Nosotros La Gente” (“We The People”) helps the viewer feel the power of what unites us as a family as we witness Sophie and her family grow and cling to the ties that bind us all.
“Nosotros La Gente” (“We The People”) runs through Dec. 20 on American Stage’s digital platform. For tickets, call 727-823-7529 or visit americanstage.org/nosotroslagente/.