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Theater Review: One of the Good Ones

Lana Parrilla, Carlos Gomez and Isabella Gomez in One of the Good Ones. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

A sitcom can be art, and Norman Lear was one of the form’s most accomplished. One of the Good Ones playwright Gloria Calderón Kellett worked with Lear as co-creator and showrunner on the Netflix remake of his ‘70s-80s sitcom One Day at a Time, and she, too, is a master of the form (as well as an all-around powerhouse). To say that One of the Good Ones feels like a high-budget, 90-minute sitcom is to praise this enjoyable, engaging show.

The world premiere of One of the Good Ones is now playing at the Pasadena Playhouse. It’s a surefire hit, with just enough pathos to keep things interesting but not enough to preclude a happy ending. Top-notch direction by Kimberly Senior and acting by a polished group from stage, screen and television wrap up a theatrical gift.

Carlos Gomez, Nico Greetham, Isabella Gomez and Lana Parrilla in One of the Good Ones. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

Lana Parilla as Ilana and Carlos Gomez as Enrique are parents to recent college grad Yoli (Isabella Gomez, a star of the remade One Day at a Time). The imminent arrival of Yoli’s boyfriend Marcos (Nico Greetham) has the house in an uproar.

And oh, what a house! A modern Pasadena mansion (by scenic designer Tanya Orellana) is itself a star of the show. In this beautiful setting, a flower delivery by Pedro (Santino Jimenez) sets off Ilana, a Latina who never learned to speak Spanish, since her striving parents wanted to spare her from an accent. She awkwardly stumbles through the encounter, ultimately bringing in her daughter to speak Spanish and overtip. Yoli asks her mother, “How’s that Duolingo going?”

The jovial, teasing family dynamics for the loving and financially secure trio gets amped up when Marcos arrives. He does not fit Enrique’s vision of the ideal Mexican-American novio, cowering in front of a macho padre, and he doesn’t hide his dissatisfaction. Of course, his daughter’s job as food-photographing influencer doesn’t fit his vision of an ideal post-college career, either. “That’s not a job,” he declares.

The comedy carries along a story that asks important questions about identity. Ilana is both Puerto Rican and a descendant of the Tongva people of Southern California dating back to its time as part of Mexico. Enrique is Cuban-American. Marcos was born in Mexico and has dual US-Mexican citizenship, yet he is the son of two white, American parents: “colonizers,” according to Enrique.

The questions raised by One of the Good Ones have open-ended answers, since the play acknowledges that identities can morph as life becomes more complicated. This diverse group comes together by the end, as decreed by the sitcom gods. And as (sort of) decreed by Chekhov, if you’re going to introduce a piñata to the stage, it had better be put to good use. It is.

One of the Good Ones runs through April 7 at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Ave. Tickets start at $40 and are available here.


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Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen
Laura Foti Cohen has lived in the Brookside neighborhood since 1993. She works as a freelance writer, editor and consultant. She's also a playwright affiliated with Theatre West.

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