The House on Mango Street offers an impressionistic interpretation of Sandra Cisneros's memoir of growing up in a Chicago barrio in the 1970s. It's a piece that is often engaging, but lacking in drive to keep it going from beginning to end.
Still, the cast at Park Square Theatre's new Andy Boss Thrust stage provide a largely entertaining and thoughtful trip into the past through the eyes of young, and older, Esperanza.
Starting with Esperanza and her family's move to Mango Street, and then following her experiences as the young character interacts with the families and folks up and down the neighborhood, the play offers a window into a past. There is joy there, but also plenty of tough times as Esperanza grows up.
A chorus of six actors brings out the colorful denizens of the neighborhood, including Esperanza's best friends, her noisy brothers, and various adults, many of whom have immigrated to the United States looking for a better life.
The happiness here is often tempered with the reality of growing up poor in the big city. The kids make due with what they can find to play with (several pairs of old shoes, for example), while growing maturity offers new, more dangerous temptations.
Alejandra C. Tobar and Adlyn Carreras lead the company as young and older Esperanza, with performances that clearly show us two versions of the same character.
While the play is full of incident, it can be hard to work out where it is driving to in the end. The company and director Dipankar Mukherjee fill each moment with details and nuance, but the mind can still wander, as it doesn't feel like the play is actually headed anywhere.
The Boss Stage is still a work in progress (as signs and some details in the house attest), and the staging doesn't always take full advantage of the space. I was seated on one of the wings, and often felt like the play was directed away from the space where I sat.
IF YOU GO:
The House on Mango Street Through November 9 Park Square Theatre 20 W. Seventh Pl., St. Paul $38-$58 For tickets and more information, call 651-291-7005 or visit online.