Actress Rose Portillo attempts a difficult labor of love in her one-woman sortie, "I Can't Be Here Today," at the Margo Albert Theater in Lincoln Park. As writer and performer, she indulges in a highly personal family odyssey--a solo memory flight largely focusing on her durable, beloved, late Aunt Flora.
The show benefits from spare, effective production values and flexible staging by director Tomas J. Benitez. Portillo glows with little effort in creating family figures and events that carom from the Mexican Revolution up to her storied aunt's richly sketched 96th birthday party. But the work lacks shape and conflict.
Portillo (who created the role of Della in "Zoot Suit" and first broke in this current work under the title "Stuff" two years ago at the Wallenboyd) seems to enjoy a workable venue at the Plaza de la Raza. The material, with its emphasis on the Mexican family and a venerable central figure who wasn't afraid to discuss politics with the men, can touch a Latino audience. (The lobby of the theater displays some striking photos of Aunt Flora at age 17 in Ysleta, Tex.)
Portillo's craft and flair, though, are qualified by rambling, as in the mixed up pages of a family album. Interest flags short of the 70-minute running time.
Performances conclude at 3540 N. Mission Road Friday and Saturday, 8 p.m. Tickets: $10. (213) 223-2475.