Balm in Gilead opens a window to the unconventional


Christopher Amador (English major) plays a chef at the Cafe Cino. Arielle Martinez (Theater Arts major) plays a junkie. Photo credit: Benjamin Garcia

Benjamin Garcia, Staff Writer

Set with prostitutes of the transgender and cisgender variety, thieves, drug dealers, addicts and Cafe owners; Balm In Gilead brings something amorally bohemian to Cerritos College.

Directed by Chair of the Theater Arts Department F. Reed Brown and made up entirely of ensemble, the show opened on Friday, Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. in the Burnight Theater. The auditorium was filled with audience members awaiting for the show to begin.

Candid of Christopher Amador and Arielle Martinez
Christopher Amador (English major) plays a chef at the Cafe Cino. Arielle Martinez (Theater Arts major) plays a junkie. Photo credit: Benjamin Garcia


Dempsey Garcia, who played the character Bob, expressed, “The majority of the cast of Balm in Gilead is the bottom tier of humanity. It all takes place on skid row in 1972.

“It’s supposed to be a bad neighborhood in the bad part of town. They’re there because they are bad at what they do,” he said.

Jessica Alonso, undecided major, said at opening night, “The chaos in the scenes adds a realistic effect. I think they were holding back with the fights. Costumes and sets were really good,” she admitted.

Brown himself conveyed that he enjoyed working with the ensemble as a whole and is glad to be directing this play because of the inclusiveness.

“It’s a huge cast of about twenty. There are no stars in the show. There are no leads.”

F. Reed Brown giving his input on the lighting.
“I enjoy collaborating when the creative juices are flowing. It’s a huge cast.” – F. Reed Brown (chair of the Theater Department, Head of acting) Photo credit: Benjamin Garcia


Many of the actors have worked with this particular director in the past. He is known for his devised directing techniques that aid in understanding movements.

Alonso, undecided major, added,”I like the actresses who played Ann. I like her acting.”

Emma Simons-Araya [Ann] said, “[Brown] tries hard to get us to work together. He makes us realize the importance of everyone’s presence in a show like this.

“There are a lot of challenging elements such as overlapping dialogue, loud arguments, and some physical fights.We have to be aware of each other,” Simmons-Araya said.

Candid of Ivan Oyarzabal and Emma Simons-Arayaduring rehearsal
Emma Simons-Araya (Theater Arts major) and Ivan Oyarzabal (Theater Arts major) have previously appeared in Hair together. They joked together during downtime at a rehearsal. Photo credit: Benjamin Garcia


The oldest actor in the show, Art Hanny, who played the character Frank, has appeared in four films, commercials, and the TV show Happy Days.

He commented on the relevance of the production.

Hanny said,”This production is really good because it asks the question ‘Can we fix our situation?’ This applies to today’s society too. It just stops and makes you think in a fun way.”