Monday, May 30, 2022

Weekly Margin 2022, W23: Notes on Killing ..., Fat Ham, Wonder Boy, Keeping Company with Stephen Sondheim

What: Soho Rep's production of Mara Vélez Meléndez's new play about Lolita, a young trans Boricua who is angry at the long history of mismanagement of Puerto Rico's finances by colonialism and the US's paternalistic approach. She arrives at the reception lobby of PROMESA (without quite remembering how she got there), only to encounter a receptionist with more than a few tricks up their sleeve.
And? Pacing-wise, it could use some tightening, but otherwise this is a terrific ride. The cast is excellent: Christine Carmela, as Lolita, has hilarious screwball comedy instincts as well as a grounded earnestness to carry the more emotional beats; and Samora la Perdida, as the Receptionist, is deliciously versatile in their various drag personae. And oh, those drag personae! Director David Mendizábal also serves as the production's costume designer, and in addition to Lolita's pantsuit, which recreates the iconic look of activist Lolita Lebrón, they also have built seven gorgeous drags (in collaboration with wig and makeup designer Earon Nealey) for the Receptionist to don as they impersonate each of the board members of PERSONA in the scheme to dismantle the system without it regenerating. Geraldo Díaz Sánchez's scenic design is a deceptively simple corporate office lobby that transforms under Kate McGee's lighting design to a variety of fantasy spaces.

Christine Carmela as Lolita. Photo source.

5/27/22: Fat Ham
What: The Public Theater hosts James Ijames's Pulitzer winning reimagined Hamlet, about a young man named Juicy who's visited by his father's ghost before a family barbeque.
And? Having seen Wilma Theater's backyard film of Fat Ham over the shutdown, I was interested to see what The Public would do with the script. Overall, I think it's a success. Marcel Spears is great as Juicy--pouty, dry, and constantly getting caught by everyone when he spends too much time asiding to the audience. Adrianna Mitchell is also terrific as Opal, Juicy's childhood friend, too scrappy to allow herself to get caught in anyone else's tragedy. And Chris Herbie Holland makes for a delightfully stoned Tio, stealing the show whenever he is onstage. Maruti Evans's scenic design is deceptively simple, giving us the flat surface shell of a picturesque back porch, but in collaboration with Skylar Fox's illusions, there are surprises to be had in many corners.

Billy Eugene Jones, Marcel Spears, Benja Kay Thomas, Calvin Leon Smith,
Adrianna Mitchell, and Nikki Crawford as Pap, Juicy, Rabby, Larry, Opal,
and Tedra. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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