|The cast of las mariposas y los muertos (Joe Moore)|
las mariposas y los
muertos (world premiere)
Two sisters and a best friend, frustrated with the music on
the indie-rock scene, decide to form a band. In this one-act, playwright
Benjamin Benne shoves a boatload of subject matter and some original rock songs
by Angie Citiali Vance into a short space.
First there is the rise and dysfunction of the trio, Elena (Sophie Franco), little sister Celestina
(Jordi Montes), and Molly (Grace Carmack). They spar over what to
name the band, deciding on Las Mariposas (The Butterflies) because butterflies
live beautiful but short lives. They spar over whether to include Spanish in
their lyrics. Elena writes most of their music until Celestina wants to write
one song that suddenly becomes popular.
Elena, written as a whiny, bitchy, unself-aware ass, gets
more and more bent out of shape about the one popular song, which uses Latinx
iconography to ironic effect. Then it becomes Molly’s problem. Molly, after
all, wanted the name, and the Spanish lyrics, and helped write the popular
song, and….. Molly is WHITE! It doesn’t help that Molly speaks better Spanish
than either sister and can communicate with their grandmother (Anabel Hovig) in her language.
The play does not seem to make Elena a joke, though. We’re
supposed to take her seriously.
An area Benne does make a joke, to great effect, is how the
band is evaluated by press, all of whom are random white men.
The songs seem inseparable from the play. They are a rock
band, after all, so they should at least play and sing once, though it could be
recorded, perhaps. But the songs take up a bit too much time given how much
territory the play wants to cover.
The family drama is important and doesn’t get nearly enough
time. There is a dead mother and tremendous angst about that that is not
exploited. Also, Hovig speaks almost entirely in Spanish and it is not
translated for the audience. It almost feels like a bulk of the theme of the
play is said in Spanish. Those who spoke Spanish in the audience (I understand
a tiny, tiny amount) laughed a lot and I was jealous.
Hovig makes a compelling grandmother stereotype with aspects of magical realism. Franco does a good job as lead singer, but can’t overcome the
nastiness of her character. Carmack does a great job as a best friend and white
apologist, in an unfortunate position. Montes is a good actor and played the
drums well. But there is no way she’s a younger sister in this trio.
|Lance Valdez and Kiki Abba in No More Sad Things (J Reese)|
No More Sad Things
No plays come to mind when thinking about Native Hawaiians.
So, No More Sad Things is already
unusual in featuring a young Hawaiian speaking in the patois of the islands. Lance Valdez does a great job of
embodying Kahekili, the surfing, carefree young Hawaiian. He is not always easy
to understand, but always engaging.
Kahekili meets a 32-year-old tourist American, Jessiee (Kiki Abba), after they both have dreams
of import pointing toward each other. Jessiee has so much difficulty in her
life that she decides she must escape the Midwest and goes to Maui. She’s
determined to try to keep the Sad Things out of her head and ends up on a quiet
beach with only Kahekili, the sand, and the surf, and things take their course.
Only after spending several days together does Jessiee
finally asks how old Kahekili is. She’s shocked to find out he’s only 15. So
are we. Valdez doesn’t look anything like 15, of course, though 15 year olds do
look more grown than we think, often.