photo by Tim Fuller

Orlando (Francisco Javier Gonzalez), at right, shows off his arrogant attitude toward his father, Mando (Gabriel Marin), a self-made success in American business.

When I was a little kid in grade school, all of us little kids took pride in believing America was a big melting pot, just like how all the grown-ups were so proud to say it was.

We knew we were lucky to live in a unique nation where people from all over the world could come to stay and be accepted equally.

Now today, several decades later, nobody talks about America's melting pot anymore. We are all constantly reminded that melting pot was a bogus idea in the first place. It was never true.

Arizona Theatre Company is here to remind us, too, with a crisp production of playwright christopher oscar pena's (he prefers lower case letters) “How To Make An American Son.”

That American son is 16-year-old Orlando (Francisco Javier Gonzalez) spoiled rotten by his father Mando (Gabriel Marin) who immigrated to the United States from Honduras as a penniless young man.

Filled with ambition and always eager to please, Mando believed in that American Dream and he prospered. As the play opens in the “early 2000s,” Mando now owns a successful cleaning company “in Silicon Valley” where his employees (also Hispanic) keep other companies' modern corporate offices spotlessly clean.

Mando is proud of his success in American business, and rightly so. He believes he has earned the kind of respect that must be appreciated. But Orlando, the adolescent son, has no time for that. He only wants more of his father's money to spend on being a cool teen.

This is not the kind of American son Mando worked so hard to raise. Too late Mando has learned no matter where you are in life – rich, poor, smooth-talking insider or awkward English-speaking immigrant – there are going to be problems.

Mando's flawless English spoken with a light Latin accent is very confident. While Orlando, in contrast, has a pure American accent to go with his privileged consumer lifestyle, as well as American impatience when things don't go his way.

The play's director, Kimberly Senior, is meticulous in balancing out these dueling family personalities. Tucson, in this respect, is particularly suited as a Southwestern border town to appreciate how American pop culture does not include many Spanish language influences.

Mando's valued employee Mercedes (Cristela Alonzo) has a powerful melt-down scene declaring that she was born in California, but has always been treated like a Mexican, never like a natural-born American. You will be shaken by this scene, no matter what your skin color.

Adding sexual prejudice to the race message of “How To Make An American Son,” Orlando finds his life becoming more complicated and tragically confused when he is romantically attracted to another boy his age, an American son of a different color.

Performances run 90 minutes, continuing through June 25 in the Temple of Music and Art, 330 S. Scott Ave., with performances at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. only on Friday.

Tickets are $40-$73. For details and reservations, 1-833-ATC-SEAT (1-833-282-7328) or visit www.atc.org

Ticket holders will receive ATC's latest official health regulations by email. At present, shot records and masks are not required, but the ATC staff is masked and suggests audience members remain masked in the theater.


photo by Brian Gawne/the Gaslight Theatre

The forces of evil get all the snappy costumes this time. They are (from left) Heather Stricker, Janee Page and Todd Thompson.

“Ghostblasters” has returned to Gaslight Theatre in full color, with myriad special effects that eschew computer graphics of any kind. Good old-fashioned spookiness prevails, with magical tricks and lighting techniques that frolic in a certain kind of endearing goofiness.

This favorite from the Gaslight archive of satirical wonders was originally written by Peter Van Slyke, now directed and adapted here by Katherine Byrnes and Mike Yarema.

Set in the 1980s among the rumbling towers and trembling ectoplasms of Metropolitan City, “Ghostblasters” borrows from songs that recall the post-rock mannerisms of those changing times, working their way back to the end of the 20th century.

Leading the trio of said Ghostblasters is extra high-energy Erin McCrea as Susie Holliday, a temp secretary in the parapsychology lab of Metropolitan University.

Being brave of heart with virtually no fear of any plasma from the paranormal, Susie cheers on a pair of white lab coat scientific types, Waldo “Wally” Beaker (Jake Chapman) and Zachary “Zack” Freeman (Yarema).

It takes awhile, and several cleverly spirited stunts, to get everybody introduced. Developing the high-tech equipment to blast these ghosts are Susie, Wally and Zack.

Opposing them with plans to rule the world is Gaslight favorite David Orley as Mayor Witherspoon of Metropolitan City, who later becomes Igor, an ancient god of war revived by an ancient spell. Also recalled from the mists of mythology is snappily dressed Randall J. Patterson (Todd Thompson), assistant to the Mayor, and then as spiky-haired Beetlegeuse the assistant to Igor.

Adding hammy humor to the efforts of these dark forces is Jacob Brown as Slobber the gushy green ghost who threatens to slobber all over the Ghostblasters, now operating proudly as uniformed professionals.

Cast as ghostly apparitions with their own ideas for being scary are Janee Page as the former librarian Lavinia Applethorpe , and Byrnes as former Science Professor Alice Pennybaker.

Fantasies of a different sort, but also from the 1980s, provide the setting for Gaslight's olio tribute to “Friends,” the ones who hung out after work at their favorite coffee haunt, Central Perk.

Along with performing a variety of songs from the period, and wondering if Ross will ever get himself out of the “friend stage,” there is a foamy layer of coffee jokes, such as:

What do you call coffee that makes you sad?


What do you call that feeling of always going to the same coffee shop day after day?

Deja brew.

“Ghostblasters” runs through August 28 at the Gaslight Theatre, 7010 E. Broadway, playing at various times Tuesdays through Sundays. Tickets are $27 (plus tax) for adults, with discounts available. Reservations are required. To get started, phone the ticket office 520-886-9428, or visit www.thegaslighttheatre.com