Armando Riesco Returns to Pulitzer-Kissed "Elliot Trilogy" for Its Final Chapter, Happiest Song, at Goodman

By Kenneth Jones
March 22, 2013

The Happiest Song Plays Last, the final play in Pulitzer Prize winner Quiara Alegría Hudes' "Elliot" Trilogy, has its cast, Goodman Theatre announced. Armando Riesco, who has played Elliot on the East Coast, returns to that role for the Chicago world premiere of part three, running April 13-May 12.



Hudes won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Water By the Spoonful. That play was preceded by Pulitzer finalist Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue. Each play references a style of music. This chapter, directed by Edward Torres, draws on the cultural heritage of joyful Jíbaro music developed and performed by Grammy Award nominee Nelson González.

Here's how Goodman bills the play: "Infused with Jíbaro music — songs from the rural inhabitants (the Jíbaros) of Puerto Rico that are sung at the holidays and communal gatherings — The Happiest Song Plays Last follows two kindred souls as they weather life's trials in a search for love and meaning in a quickly changing world. Amid the Arab Spring uprisings raging across the Middle East, Elliot (Armando Riesco), a tormented Iraq War veteran living in Jordan, embarks on an exciting new adventure — as the star of an action film. Meanwhile, halfway across the world, his fiery community-organizer cousin Yaz in Philadelphia takes on a heroic role of her own: as the heart and soul of her crumbling community, providing hot meals and a place to sleep for the needy. The Happiest Song Plays Last features live cuarto music — a type of guitar and the national instrument of Puerto Rico."

The cast includes Sandra Marquez (The Motherfu**er with the Hat at Steppenwolf) as Yaz; Fawzia Mirza (Teddy Ferrara) as Shar; Jaime Tirelli (the independent films "36 Saints" and "El Cielo Es Azul") as Joaquin; Demetrios Troy (A Christmas Carol) as Ali; and James Harms (The Iceman Cometh) as Lefty.

The Goodman Theatre produces the play in association with Teatro Vista. The Happiest Song Plays Last was commissioned by the Goodman and supported with a 2009 Joyce Award for Theater.

The creative team includes John Boesche (projections), Collete Pollard (set), Christine Pascual (costumes), Jesse Klug (lighting), Ray Nardelli (sound) and Josh Horvath.

Opening night is April 22. For more information, visit GoodmanTheatre.org.

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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has proclaimed April 27 "Quiara Alegría Hudes Day" — when the Goodman gives 75 lucky Chicagoans the free chance to experience all three plays in Hudes' "Elliot Trilogy" in one day, under one roof. The day includes Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue (a 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist) in a staged reading by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble; Water By the Spoonful (2012 Pulitzer Prize winner) in a staged reading by Teatro Vista; and a performance of The Happiest Song Plays Last.