The ‘flip’ side of the American ‘Dream’

By John Lyle Belden

Some lucky people find themselves in a rather American dilemma: Is it better to hold on to a legacy, or to cash out? This situation is at the heart of the new comedy, “Dream Hou$e,” by Ellana Pipes, playing at Fonseca Theatre Company.

Latinx sisters Patricia (Yolanda Valdivia) and Julia (Lexes Rubio) have this good fortune, inheriting the family’s beautiful mission-style home, hand-built over a century ago, from their mother who recently passed. Wanting to get the most out of their property, Patricia contacted the real estate reality TV show, “Flip It & List It!” Suddenly, the host Tessa (Jean Arnold) appears with her crew (Brant Hughes, Chris Creech and Mad Brown) to record every step of the house’s transformation.

At first reluctant, the sisters are stunned into compliance with the amount the home could sell for. But things take a turn when, as renovations begin, the walls begin to bleed.

This is not the only bit of magic around, as the sisters (as siblings do) can suspend time for a moment when they really need to discuss something. Otherwise, we tackle some real-world issues of neighborhood transformation/gentrification, the struggle to preserve culture, and how does one best move on when dealing with unavoidable change?

Arnold is a wild joy to behold as the ever-upbeat TV host. She’s savvy in the ways of media and real estate, lacing her persistent charm with an all-business demeanor. However she’s never mean, even taking a liking to the young women; her candid honesty helps keep her from coming off as the villain.

Valdivia and Rubio shine in their own ways. They each approach the situation differently, and have issues to resolve with the house, and each other. Still, their portrayal shows the tested patience of a family bond, with the easy give-and-take of a comedy duo.

Director Jordan Flores Schwartz says it is in Pipes’s script that the community in the play is called “Highville,” so it is either by fate or coincidence it is staged in the Near-West Indy area of Haughville. Given ongoing events in the surrounding city, this does seem apt.

With equal parts hilarity and heart, “reality” and the surreal, this “Dream Hou$e” is well worth a look. Performances run through April 16 at 2508 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis. Tickets and info at


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