Feature photo, (L to R) Yajaira Paredes, Krystal Rosa, Angel Sigala, Jessy Gruver by Paola Nogueras
Deborah Block, the producing artistic director for Theatre Exile, wasn’t expecting to start their 25th anniversary season with a world premiere play. But once the committee read Extreme Home Makeover by playwright, actor and comedian Makasha Copeland, there was no turning back.
When selecting this season, Block sought out scrips that dug into the human condition- a common theme with the content you’ll see at Theatre Exile. The title of this play is a reference to the ABC network’s reality show where families audition for a chance to have their home (and their lives) completely renovated. This is what the Vega family is hoping for after a recent and sudden death in the family.
The show features four characters- mom, Valentina (played by Jessy Gruver); her children Lupe (played by Krystal Rosa) and Marco (played by Angel Sigala), and Valentina’s mother Guadalupe (played by Yajaira Paredes). Each of them speak directly to their audition tape through most of the show as they grieve the loss of Valentina’s husband and ask ABC to fix all of their problems.
We’ve all seen, or at least know, about the ABC show. But what we don’t see is how bad some of these families really want to win. They think it’s their only way out of whatever struggles they may be facing. As the Vega family unravels, they seek help from these network strangers (and ultimately in the public eye) rather than each other. Yajaira Paredes is excellent as Guadalupe, genuinely becoming the skeptical and loving Abuela. She realizes this isn’t the right way to approach their troubles, but the others don’t see many alternate options. They’re a desperate and working poor family in Texas. They miss school, they struggle to stay ahead of bills, their home has sheltered generations of Vegas, and they need a break. A new home will solve everything. They can become completely new people.
Jessy Gruver’s portrayal of Valentina is relatable and heartbreaking. She’ll do anything to keep her family safe. They need food on the table, a home without mold. But she can’t do it on her own. Her children (convincing performances from Krystal Rosa and Angel Sigala) follow along to please their mom and really make the audience feel their characters’ disappointments and anger throughout the show.
The Vega family is bursting with emotions and the need to let loose. Is talking to a video tape the only way to get out what needs to be said and felt? Is the family willing to erase their memories in this house for the sake of coming out on top? A new home may replace the cracks in their old one, but will it hold their family together in a stable way? Will everything they’re doing now, for a slim chance to win, be worth it in the long run?
This show is a hopeful story about the reality for many Tejano families living in Southern Texas. It also is funny at times and shows the true love of a tight knit family. The set, their home, is welcoming and the theatre is intimate. Become a part of the Vega family for 90 minutes and get tickets to Extreme Home Makeover here.
Read our Q&A with some of the cast members here.