Pablito’s father abandoned his wife and seven-year-old son with the parting admonition that Pablito would have to be the “man of the house.” Pablito is left with a man-sized hole in his heart that six years later causes him to search for his father in Man of the House, an emotionally involving world premiere Kennedy Center commission.
Man of the House is performed by the talented David Gonzalez, who embodies all of the show’s characters. These characters include Pablito at both seven and thirteen, his Puerto Rican mother Louisa, various other friends and family, and ultimately the boy’s Cuban-American father Arsenio.
Pablito is an interesting and well-drawn character. While the loss of his father and the family’s difficult economic circumstances have forced him to grow up fast in many ways, he is still a hopeful and optimistic young man. He also has a clever imagination, illustrated by how he turns waiting for his father into an astronaut’s countdown or imagining what kind of man his father might be based upon approaching vehicles.
While the initial parts of the story lack much action, Gonzalez finds many ways to keep the audience involved. He has original music underscoring transitions and scenes from on-stage synthesizer musician David Kelly and the story skillfully uses video projections. Moreover, Gonzalez makes Pablito a charming character whose search for his father is also a search for the missing part of his ethnic heritage.
The story reaches its highest levels when Pablito encounters his father. The story is a semi-autobiographical one for Gonzalez, who astutely captures all of the conflicting emotions of Pablito, including love, heartbreak, confusion, and anger. It all happens at a time when Pablito is seeking to become a man and assert some independence from his still-angry mother. Without spoiling the story, the developments and the conclusion all feel honest and grounded in reality.
Man of the House is more serious than the usual Kennedy Center family theatre fare, but it struck home with the young and captivated audience. This writer was initially skeptical that the story would appeal to the 9+ audience for which it was advertised, but just as children can enjoy stories read aloud that are a couple of years ahead of their own reading ability, they appeared to understand the depth and emotion of Man of the House. Man of the House should have a life after this short run of the new work.
– This production of Man of the House ran for 2 performances, closing November 3, 2013. –
Man of the House . Written & performed by Danny Gonzalez . Original live music by Daniel Kelly . Directed by Karen Jenson . Produced by RainArt Productions . Presented by The Kennedy Center . Reviewed by Steven McKnight.