The Old Globe's Commissioned World-Premiere "Stir"

Authentically Stimulates the Senses with Love and Sazón

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti 

Melinda Lopez as Mariana in Stir, 2024. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
In my experience, rarely is a commissioned play really ready. Usually, there are gaps, loose ends, or plain things that do not make sense being shoehorned in. That was not the case with the Old Globe's latest commission and world premiere play Stir. This work is rounded, makes sense, and hits the marks. In these times of frequent forced diversity, Stir is relatable. Truly.

Written by Melinda Lopez who performed the one-woman show Mala two years ago and Joel Perez, Stir is an eighty-minute piece with no intermission (a dynamic that I am getting pretty fond of) that takes place around the second year of the pandemic (that sounds so bizarre) with a Zoom call between siblings Mariana (Melinda Lopez) and Henry (Joel Perez). Mariana, the older sister is married with two girls and lives in Buffalo. Henry was in New York but moved with his dad, papi (Al Rodrigo) to his retirement community in Florida because of the pandemic. Henry wants to recreate his mom's refried beans recipe that he fondly remembers from when he was little, and when the family went on camping trips.

Joel Perez as Henry and Melinda Lopez as Mariana in Stir, 2024. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Performed in the round, Diggle's scenic design consists of two kitchen stations that the actors rotate adding momentum and marking the times of the Zoom call. Only one of the kitchens has a stove. A working electric stove that moonlights as two stoves, one in each household. During the call, while the siblings are catching up and comparing memories, they start cooking the beans. Mari and Enrique have a modern, charming iBook that matches the kitchen setting. Diggle thought this through and made a functional kitchen design that evokes feeling. From the placement of the spices to where the trashcan is. Director Marcela Lorca, Artistic Director of Ten Thousand Things, directs with feeling too. Having each dialogue within the computer screen marinate, to set in the audience, get a reaction, and then move on. There are moments when characters and the audience react in unison, making for a raw, moving experience. Music has an effect on the soul, and Fabian Obispo's original music and sound design frame that experience punctually. 

Papi, who has an active social life, says hello to his daughter and notices she looks different and not in a good way. It is then when Mari confesses an upsetting update to her brother and everything goes CAPICÚ as Henry also confesses the plans he has for their mother's ashes. Melinda and Joel are naturals with fantastic charm and real delivery. Al Rodrigo comes in and out but his participations are also hefty, wrapped up in his deep, velvet voice. 

Melinda Lopez, Al Rodrigo, and Joel Perez in Stir, 2024. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
Cha See's lighting design starts bright and clear to later dim with blues and purples, adding to the continued momentum as the confessions come out. Creatively, Stir, stimulates the senses, as the set design is mobile and with its own personality lit by See's design that makes it pop, and serenaded by Obispo's sound and music. The sense of smell is also serenaded by that cooking and stirring! You can totally smell the beans and all the wonderful ingredients in there. I even took some notes for my own bean cooking. 

Authenticity shines through in this production made with heart and true sazón. 

Currently playing until May 26 at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

Post Show Forum are scheduled for: Tuesday, May 14; Tuesday, May 21; and Wednesday, May 22 (evening performance) and an Open-Caption Performance for Saturday, May 25 at 2:00 p.m.

More information on ticket prices and performances HERE.

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