New production offers sympathetic portrayal of homeless plight

By Mia Proli Gable

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Once upon a time you were an architect, a factory employee or a oil field worker. You had a spouse, children, siblings and parents. Then one day you lost it all and now live in the streets, shivering in the cold, hungry and looking for work that never seems to be available.

What do you do now? Many people think that the homeless are crazy, lazy and good-for-nothing. However, Blues, Pima Community College drama department's newest production focuses on a community of homeless as they welcome a newcomer to their alleyway.

Perhaps what is most impressive about this production is its staging and atmosphere. Performed in the Black Box Theatre, the stage occupies one corner of the room and is scattered with a makeshift shelter, garbage, an old sofa, a shopping cart and a phone booth.

Before the play begins, the cast is on stage and walking around through the audience. Zach (Patrick Mulchay) might come up to you swinging his backpack asking if you're heading north. If you say no he might sit down and ask you why is it that there are only four directions and it seems everyone is going in every way but north. Later Nate (Carlos Arboloda) might come up and ask if you've found a pack of cigarettes. Dee (Wendy Hayes) might scream and run through the risers, afraid of everything.

This hour-long production gently fluctuates between memories and the present. It narrates the lives of these homeless characters how they ended up living on the streets and who they left behind willingly, sadly or forcefully. Mixed in with the spoken words of the script are dancing, live acoustic guitar music and the singing of blues songs.

But Blues is not one-sided. A social worker, a policeman, a doctor in a state mental institution and a unemployment-office employee all offer their views of the homeless. They expose the many layers of this problem and effectively show that homelessness is not just the fault of those who fall victim to it.

Don Evans directs an effective sketch of the dark and depressing life on the streets. The atmosphere conveys little hope of making it back to a life of two-bedroom houses surrounded by white picket fences.

Blues is a startling portrait of what it is like to be homeless something that could benefit us all.

"Blues" plays through Feb. 25 at the Black Box Theatre. For information call 884-6909.

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