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The premiere of Extreme Home Makeover kicks off Theatre Exile’s 25th anniversary season and the first live, in-person performances to hit their stage since the 2019-20 season. Texas-born playwright Makasha Copeland brings a story of a Tejano family chasing the American dream while experiencing financial hardship.
Roll the tape
Directed by Deborah Block and featuring local Philadelphia actors Yajaira Paredes, Jessy Gruver, Krystal Rosa, and Angel Sigala, the play is an earnest satire exploring modern family dynamics within an immigrant family. The Vega family attempts to make a standout video application for a spot on the popular, rags-to-riches TV show Extreme Home Makeover. In the process of filming, the family discovers issues going far beyond their leaky pipes. The story is told through a series of takes from the Vega’s audition tape for the show, with new breakthroughs accompanying each take.
Copeland was inspired to write the play when one of their favorite childhood TV shows, Extreme Home Makeover, was getting re-made, leading their to revisit the rags-to-riches reality show with adult eyes. “I wanted to think about the pressure to commodify one's suffering in order to get access to life-affirming opportunities and resources,” says Copeland.
The play explores themes of grief, poverty, intergenerational family dynamics, single motherhood, racialized capitalism, and coming of age. Through a dark comedic lens, Copeland comments on American reality television as it intersects with real family problems while the camera isn’t rolling.
“This season, we were looking for timely stories that offered our audiences a sense of hope,” said Block. “Extreme Home Makeover focuses on characters who have experienced a difficult loss but make it through because of love, resilience, and support of their family.” Extreme Home Makeover portrays a struggling immigrant family in need of assistance and poses the question: in a world where so many receive so little, how much do miracles cost?
What, When, Where
Extreme Home Makeover. By Makasha Copeland, directed by Deborah Block. $10-$35. October 28 through November 21, 2021, at Theatre Exile, 1340 South 13th Street, Philadelphia. (215) 218-4022 or theatreexile.org.
Theatre Exile is a wheelchair-accessible venue with gender-neutral restrooms.
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