Moe’s Cantina serves up a Quinceañera

Tue. December 19, 2023 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn

Moe's Cantina at 155 West Kinzie is thinking outside the box by serving up Sweet 15: The Immersive Quinceanera Experience. This popular Northern Mexican-influenced restaurant has found an innovative way to combine a meal with live entertainment.

Located in the River North area and next door to sister establishment Tree House Chicago, this hot spot is the place to stop for curated cuisine and fictionalized drama.

Folks were able to pre-book tickets online to enjoy a limited menu of delicious offerings such as the tampiqueña, a platter representing people from Huasteca with steak and enchiladas, taco dinner, shrimp fajitas or chicken in a mole sauce. Several paired their choice with a Horchata Paradise cocktail adding to the spirit of the festivities.

Food and beverages were distributed first and then the play began on a small stage with a runway-ready open area that was surrounded by tables of customers. Service was discontinued until the intermission and a few ground rules were announced about the event.

The performers then set out to convey a soap opera about the complicated Valderrama family who live in Chicago. The biological father Eddy, played by Paolo Quevedo, returns to the scene in hopes of reigniting a relationship with his daughter Sonora, who is now 22 years old. Plans go awry for his late Sweet 15 party after several surprises and obstacles.

The creators of this experience have good timing as audiences currently love becoming a part of the environment. Taking pictures with the cast after the show and meeting the stars makes ticket holders feel personally invested. Having companies such as Bimbo Bakeries participate and possibly absorb some of the cost involved was also a smart move.

Tony N' Tina's Wedding was a major hit in Chicago and shows there is a market for the future of Sweet 15: The Immersive Quinceanera Experience. With some adjustments the show could travel to other venues easily and the performers displayed how skilled they are at adapting to unexpected situations.

The modern cultural references of Bad Bunny and the Kardashians landed well. Nydia Castillo added fresh dialogue and was particularly notable at lampooning the qualities of the culture to those around her without making her musings offensive. Mauricio Sanchez's character could use some modernization by not being the gay butt of the joke and deserved more redemption before the end.

The heavy material could be lightened up with more humorous moments and make for an escape from reality for those watching. Cutting down sections and making the novella more concise would have allowed the script to breathe. This would make room for more improvisations and interactions with those outside of the cast.

The kitchen and bar could add to the fiesta by dolling out a dessert or shots during celebratory scenes. It is vital to make it clear when audience participation will be needed so there is no confusion or awkwardness.

An idea to show this is through using lighting as a signal and a good lighting expert would make a world of difference in this case. With a restaurant not being a usual theater space this can be challenging, but only illuminating the center area would focus the attention directly on the performers.

With minor adjustments and some fine-tuning, this Sweet 15 can be the festive party that it wants to be. Hopefully, The Quinceanera Immersive Experience returns and will be loved like a Papi from the past!

In the meantime, we have mealtime at to enjoy!