Image via You're Gonna Cry / Rio Yañez

The first thing that might come to mind as you’re waiting for the lights to dim at Paul  Flores’ one-man show “You’re Gonna Cry,”: What is Flores doing in Union Square performing a show about gentrification in the Mission?

Well, in one example of why you might do as the title implies, the sixth-floor black box Phoenix Theater on Mason Street is an affordable performance space in the city that Flores and his producer Eric Reid (of CellSpace/Inner Mission fame) had to find since Inner Mission has been kicked out of its Bryant Street location to make way for a planned housing development there.

That’s right – Union Square is now the place to go for underground theater about displacement from a Latino neighborhood.

Here’s the thing about Flores’ show: It doesn’t harp. It’s not whiny. It’s not depressing. He’s appreciative of the space, and you can tell that the show is more of a celebration of the characters he’s wrought than the middle finger to the techie elite that you might expect from the playbill.

In fact, if I understood correctly, the play doesn’t even get all the way to the 21st century, instead reminiscing about the wave of gentrification in the 90s, making a nod to the patterns of alienation and displacement that we seem to have a habit of replicating.

I also have to qualify the “celebration of the characters” comments with this: Flores is not putting anyone on a pedestal. Every portrayal has a little bit of bite, a couple of twists and tweaks that lets you know Flores has no illusions about the existence of flawless human beings.

(Incidentally, when one of his characters makes a crack about how an artist who left some apartment fixtures lying about on the street must not have had many friends, check to see if you can recognize the artists in the frame.)

It’s a healthy dash of caricature that makes the play much lighter than you might expect, while at the same time complicating everything – like a touch of salt that makes a sweet dish more refined. Each of the characters, Flores noted, are based on a real person that he knew, which is also evident in the respect he shows even as he exaggerates their most prominent features.

In fact, the critiques of the various characters are what make this show, unlike so many, only work as a one-man play. While it’s a bit tricky to pull off an argument among three characters with only one actor, by doing so, Flores claims each person as a part of himself, and makes the critiques feel at once more personal and more bearable. He also separates out the characters who are engaged in other disputes throughout the story, showing you glimpses of each person in chronologically separated monologues. Each one gets a voice (even though they’re all Flores’ voice) and gets to tell their side of the story, independently.  

You’re Gonna Cry runs Thursday, Friday and Saturday May 26, 27 and 28th at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20.

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