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Jedlicka actors explore power and passion of ‘Evita’

Maxwell DeTogne (from left), Emily Goldberg and John Gurdian star in the Jedlicka Arts Center production of 'Evita.
Maxwell DeTogne (from left), Emily Goldberg and John Gurdian star in the Jedlicka Arts Center production of 'Evita." | Photo by Emily Schwartz

Who was Eva Perón?

Emily Goldberg has been working hard to find the answer for her role as Argentina’s late First Lady in Jedlicka Performing Arts Center’s production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s powerful musical, “Evita.”

“I watched documentaries, I read about other productions, I watched YouTube videos,” the Oak Park native said. “I learned as much about the actual person as I could as well as trying to find out as much as I could about past productions and how other people played her.”

Goldberg’s conclusion is that Eva was “very driven, very fiery, very powerful and will do most anything to achieve her goals.”

That’s how she managed to work her way up from Argentina’s slums into a position of power as Juan Perón’s wife. “When she first meets him, I believe her attraction to him is real but it’s more for his power,” the 2012 Boston Conservatory graduate surmised. “As the relationship continues, she does grow to love him.”

Evita may be driven, but she manages to help her country’s lower class people, Goldberg added, “although she doesn’t do it without taking some for herself.”

John Gurdian plays Perón, who he described as “a very intense man. He’s a soldier and he’s also a politician. There’s a sort of ruthlessness behind it but, at the same time, there’s a softer side to him. He does care for Eva so there’s definitely a certain amount of kindness and compassion there as well.”

Gurdian believes that, in addition to loving Eva, Perón “admires her desire to better herself and those around her. They have a shared ideal in helping the working class.” Of course, the actor indicated, championing the poorer people also helps keep the Peróns in power.

Although Gurdian asserted, “If you really look at the dynamics, he’s not in charge. If it wasn’t for Eva, he would be satisfied. He’s a soldier at heart. He doesn’t want to deal with the bureaucratic nonsense.”

Although politics is at the heart of “Evita,” there is tenderness as well. Gurdian is particularly drawn to a moment near the end of the show where Eva collapses. “He picks her up and puts her in her bed and sings, ‘So what happens now?’” Gurdian said. “It’s a repeat of the mistress’ song in the first act. It’s the first time you see both of them vulnerable. I think it’s a really beautiful and powerful moment.”

Commenting on the goings-on and periodically inserting himself into the action as a variety of characters is Maxwell DeTonge who plays Ché. “He goes back and forth from being the narrator to being Eva’s conscience to opposing Perón’s regime,” said DeTonge, a 2013 graduate of North Central College in Naperville.

The actor noted that there are a number of songs in which Ché confronts Eva about her exploitive behavior, particularly in, “A Waltz for Eva and Ché.” “That’s their most prominent time together,” DeTonge explained.

In terms of his relationship to Perón, the actor said, “I don’t think they see eye-to-eye because Ché represents the middle classes and they are getting pushed around by Perón and Eva.

DeTonge’s favorite aspects of his role are “the different voices I get to use, the different accents I get to use. It never bores you.”

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