When you see this show, see it without the expectations of a typical story arc. Experiencing it fully in the here and now is a wonderful jolt of adrenaline and brio.
…the cast, in a swirling, fervent recitation/celebration of Puerto Ricans and their culture, deliver a knock-out of a show.
“Dancing in My Cockroach Killers” at Gala Hispanic Theatre consists of a series of vignettes showcasing the life of Puerto Ricans facing devastating losses and determined to rebuild. It is based on a compilation of poems, stories, events/news items, and diaries. The poet/writer Magdalena Gomez provided the writings—from her poetry and plays—and the director, Rosalba Rolon, of Pregones/Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre married the writing with musical arcs.
The pieces are brought to vivid, foot-stomping life by the cast: Yaremis Felix as Libertad, Lolita; Caridad De La Luz “La Bruja” as Magdalena, Luisa; Krystal Pou as Lydia Mariana; Jesus E. Martinez as Virgilio, Nieto 1; Omar Perez as Christian, Nieto 2; and Christin Eve Cato as Soledad, La Fulana. The musicians, who are on stage, are Desmar Guevara, conductor and keyboard; Nick Laboy, percussion; and Alvaro Benavides, bass. These incredibly talented musicians provide a unique musical structure that allows the individual story-songs/dances to blend into a kaleidoscopic unity. This is a team that plays seemingly effortlessly together.
The stories themselves are stories of joy, sorrow, anger, determination, resignation, hope. A whole lot of emotion is packed into the production, and the cast, in a swirling, fervent recitation/celebration of Puerto Ricans and their culture, delivers a knock-out of a show. The cast takes command of the stage from the start and their energy is unflagging.
Rolon keeps the action moving seamlessly from one depiction of life in Puerto Rico to another. She is aided by the brilliant choreography of Paulette Beauchamp, a dancer and choreographer who began her career with the Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico; her background shows in the structure of each piece; each works on its own and builds toward a cohesive vision.
The costume design is by Harry Nadal, and the clothes are vivid and eye-catching. Wisely, he does not have his cast dance the entire show in those aforementioned cockroach killers, but then the cast comes out in the finale wearing those pointy shoes in defiant, you-can’t-miss-me colors and patterns, and you can’t help laughing joyously. Because those shoes say it all—no matter what happens, we will survive.
This show has been presented in the Bronx and off-Broadway, and in Los Angeles. This is the Washington, DC, premiere. It takes stereotypes and skewers them, putting faces to stories of survival and rebuilding. It is also very funny in parts which helps to balance the inevitable sadness at the losses Puerto Ricans have faced.
It is a transfixing evening and a different kind of theatre—mostly sung, always danced, with big, bold themes.
The show is presented in Spanish and English.
Running Time: Approximately two hours with one 10-minute intermission.
“Dancing in My Cockroach Killers” runs June 7 – July 1, 2018, at Gala Hispanic Theatre, Washington, DC. For more information, please click here.