🎭 Family Dynamics | “One of the Good Ones” @ Pasadena Playhouse

One of the Good Ones (Pasadena Playhouse)As the World Premiere of the new play One of the Good Ones (which we saw Saturday night at the Pasadena Playhouse) started, I was cringing. The dialogue and interactions of a white woman overplaying an encounter with a Hispanic worker was just.. uhhhhh. With that opening, I’m sure you’re expecting me to say that this play was completely cringe-worthy, a trainwreck.

But, no, that was my opinion of their last showKate.

One of the Good Ones is harder to characterize. At time, there was dialogue that was completely cringeworthy. At other times, the show was hilariously funny. The thought that kept coming to my mind was that this really was an extended situation comedy. Many of today’s sitcoms are like that. I’ll be watching The Neighborhood or even Abbott Elementary and there will be dialogue and situations that are completely cringeworthy—the “this is stupid and I want to turn this off” level. But then the show redeems itself.

This is that sort of a comedy, which with its length (80 minutes, no intermission) is very much an extended sitcom. This isn’t a theatrical classic. It is just a funny evening in front of the TV. In fact, thinking about this even more, I could see this being a real sitcom. The family presented here is set up and established and could result in many very funny story lines. TV executives down the freeway in Burbank (home to NBC, ABC, and a little down the road, CBS Radford): Are you listening?

So here’s the setup. Father, Enrique (Carlos Gomez) is a slightly hot-headed Cuban American, 2nd generation. Mother, Ilana (Lana Parrilla) is a Mexican-Puerto Rican American, also 2nd generation,  who does not speak Spanish. Daughter, Yoli (Isabella Gomez) is bringing home her boyfriend … make that serious boyfriend … make that very serious boyfriend, Marcos (Nico Greetham). So you’ve got intergenerational conflict, and parents who don’t accept their daughter growing up. And Marcos is claimed to be Mexican… after all he was born in Mexico City.

But then the secrets and truths start to come out, and the meat of the comedy comes out as well. I don’t want to spoil the jokes, but some of them are a bit predictable. Some I didn’t see coming at all. And yes, there were cringeworthy moments, such as the aforementioned opening where the mother, who doesn’t speak Spanish, completely over reacts to a Hispanic delivery person.

As I said: A sitcom. Actually, it would be a great sitcom, once the ensemble settled into the family that sitcom ensembles do.

Should you see this? I’d ask: Do you like sitcoms? If you do: If you (like me) find shows like The Neighborhood funny, go for it. I think you would enjoy this.

I should note that this play—just like some sitcoms—actually makes some deeper points in all of its comedy. In this case, the point is made about the problem with the whole American “Melting Pot” model. For all of the broad ethnic groups, our significant cultural and ethnic past as we melt into the larger group: Italians and Irish and English and … become “White”; “Mexicans” and “Spanish” and “Cubans” and … become “Latinx” (and there are some good jokes about that). Many different African and Caribbean and …. heritages become “Black”; Japanese and Chinese and Korean and …. become “Asian”. We lose the value of those identities. They then get further subsumed when we become the lump label “American”. Further, is what makes you your label dependent on your heritage or where you were born? Is a son of English and German immigrants, born in Mexico and speaking fluent Spanish, Mexican? These are deep and relevant questions today, and they are buried in the humor of this play.

But this isn’t new for a sitcom. Archie Bunker was making us think as he was making us laugh, and as he was saying things that were very cringeworthy. It’s an honored sitcom tradition. It isn’t the days of Leave It to Beaver  or Ozzie and Harriet anymore.

One of the Good Ones continues at the Pasadena Playhouse until April 7. Tickets are available through the Pasadena Playhouse website; they may also be available through the usual discount outlets.

One note for completeness: Last weekend we saw the folk music group Emma’s Revolution at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach. Great show, but I don’t always write up concerts. Here is their future show schedule.


Cast: Lana Parrilla Ilana; Carlos Gomez Enrique; Isabella Gomez Yoli; Nico Greetham Marcos; Santino Jimenez Pedro. Understudies: Abel Garcia, Anna LaMadrid.

Production and Creative Credits: Written by Gloria Calderón Kellett. Directed by Kimberly Senior. Other credits: Tanya Orellana Scenic Design; Denitsa Bliznakova Costume Design; Jaymi Lee Smith Lighting Design; Jeff Gardner & Andrea Allmond Sound Design; Rachel Lee Flesher Fight & Intimacy Coordinator; Ryan Bernard Tymensky CSA Casting; David S. Franklin Stage Manager; Brad Enlow Technical Direction / Production Supervisor; Davidson & Choy Publicity Press Representative; Jenny Slattery Associate Producer; Miriam E. Mendoza Asst. Stage Manager.

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Administrivia: I am not a professional critic. I’m a cybersecurity professional, a roadgeek who does a highway site and a podcast about California Highways, and someone who loves live performance. I buy all my own tickets, unless explicitly noted otherwise. I do these writeups to share my thoughts on shows with my friends and the community. I encourage you to go to your local theatres and support them (ideally, by purchasing full price tickets, if you can afford to do so). We currently subscribe or have memberships at: Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson TheatreBroadway in Hollywood/Pantages TheatrePasadena PlayhouseGeffen Playhouse (Mini-Subscription); 5-Star Theatricals. We’re looking for the right intimate theatre to subscribe at — it hasn’t been the same since Rep East died (it’s now The Main, and although it does a lot of theatre, it doesn’t have seasons or a resident company), and post-COVID, most 99-seaters aren’t back to doing seasons (or seasons we like). I used to do more detailed writeups; here’s my current approach.

Upcoming ♦ Theatre / ♣ Music / ◊ Other Live Performance – Next 90ish Days (⊕ indicates ticketing is pending):

On the Theatrical Horizon:

Morgan-Wixson Theatre in Santa Monica has announced their Mainstage 2024 Season, and it includes Bat Boy the Musical running Sept 28 through October 18. We saw Bat Boy back when CSUN did it in 2014; it is a wonderful musical about how a society treats outsiders. I also just learned about a theatre company in Fullerton, Maverick Theater. They are doing Evil Dead: The Musical , which is a hoot if you’ve never seen it (we’ve seen it twice). They also have some interesting other stuff on their season, and we might drive down for Santa Claus Vs The Martians in November.


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