BWW Review: CONFESSIONS OF A COCAINE COWBOY at the Colony Theatre- Because Miami!
God, I love Lincoln Road. And nope, I am not a tourist. Even though I have lived in Miami my whole life, I still get a thrill of walking down Lincoln Road people watching: girls in barely-there outfits with thongs exposed, men with chains heavy enough to weigh them down walking dogs who are dressed like people and people dressed like statues fully covered in sliver paint... BECAUSE MIAMI!
Last night there was an added excitement that buzzed just steps away from South Beach and all the craziness surrounding Ultra. You can feel the excitement of the crowds entering the Colony Theatre to watch Miami New Drama's World Premier of Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy in collaboration with the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning studio rakontur, written by Billy Corben and Aurin Squire, directed by Michel Hausmann. There was a sense of anticipation and energy entering the theatre as people poured into an almost sold out show. As the seats filled, I likened the energy of people talking excitedly in their seats to the party atmosphere of Miami Beach's lifestyle. It was obvious that, like myself, the crowd was filled with people who were fans of the documentary and were thrilled to see if the play would do it justice. And that it did.
I must admit that I am a fan of the cult-classic documentaries Cocaine Cowboys and an even bigger fan of Billy Corben but that does not change how electrifying the stage adaptation was. Between the gun fire, strobe lighting and blood splatter it was like being a part of the madness on stage. Within the first moments of the play, I was jumping at the first spray of gunfire although I had been warned multiple times before entering the theatre. Warning: gunfire, strobe lighting, strong language, violence, blood and other Florida fuc**ry will be experience during this performance. The play had me on my toes since the start. It did not stop the shock to my senses until the very last lines were uttered but I won't tell you what those were! You must experience the show to find out.
Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy chronicles Miami's brutal drug wars of the 1970's and 80's through the life of Jorge "Rivi" Ayala, the favorite assassin of notorious drug queen pin Griselda Blanco. This wild, pivotal chapter of Miami history is brought to life by Billy Corben, award-winning, Miami-raised playwright Aurin Squire (NBC's This Is Us, CBS's The Good Fight), and Miami New Drama artistic director Michel Hausmann. Their audacious union of theater and true crime storytelling is based on a thousand page jailhouse deposition with Ayala, a much-feared hitman convicted of murdering three people and suspected of killing 35 more. A lethal charmer, Ayala was a central figure in the rakontur documentary, which chronicled how Colombian drug lords turned Miami into an extravagant, surreally violent epicenter of cocaine, cash and crime - and propelled the city's transformation from laidback tourist town to vibrant metropolis. Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy recreates an outrageous, amoral, darkly comedic epoch in Miami that riveted and horrified the world.
If you came to the theatre craving more, than you would leave the Colony Theatre utterly satisfied. The directing was sharp, clean and brilliant. Michel Hausmann kept us methodically focused on each character and their transformations into multiple characters with the expertise of a surgeon. The acting was superb. Yancey Arias was wickedly charming and so much like Rivi that it almost made me do a double take. Why was I cheering for the bad guy since the beginning? Well, he was just so charming and funny. Yancey played Rivi with the ease of the ladies' man himself. An actor is only as good as the writing, but in this case the writing was a poignant vehicle for some exquisite acting. Yes, Yancey is THAT good. But he wasn't alone. The cast features the accomplished Yancey Arias (Kingpin, Lethal Weapon) starring as Ayala, joined by Zilah Mendoza (Modern Family, Grey's Anatomy); Cuban-born, Miami-raised Andhy Mendez (The Blacklist, Orange is the New Black); Miami-based multidisciplinary artist Rudi Goblen (Miami New Drama's Queen of Basel); Carbonell award-winners Nicholas Richberg (The Glades, Fun Home), and Stephen Anthony (Miami New Drama's Our Town); and introducing Bryan Blanco (rakontur's Screwball). The production was fanatically cast but one of my favorites was Zilah Mendoza who physically embodied both Kathy and Giselda with such precision it was scary how different the State Attorney was from Madrina.
What I hadn't expected was how much I would be laughing. It was with such humor Rivi takes us through this play which is based on actual historical events. It was as thrilling and terrifying alike. What the heck are you doing still reading this? There is only one more weekend before you miss the whole damn thing! Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy runs through April 7, at the Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Tickets are $39 to $79 at www.colony.org or 305-674-1040.
This production is funded in part by a Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Miami New Drama
Founded by playwright and director Michel Hausmann and National Medal of the Arts winner Moises Kaufman, Miami New Drama is a producing organization committed to artistic excellence and groundbreaking work unique to this diverse and extraordinary city with a vision of theatre as a powerful form of social engagement. The company's first show of its debut 2017-2018 season, a multilingual version of Thornton Wilder's classic Our Town, was critically-acclaimed as "glorious, emotionally potent" and "inventive and touching...superb!" Past productions include the American premiere of Ferdinand von Schirach's Terror directed by Tony Award winner Gregory Mosher, The Golem of Havana, an original musical written (book) and directed by Michel Hausmann, Queen of Basel, a new play by Hilary Bettis, commissioned and directed Michel Hausmann, One Night in Miami...written by Kemp Powers and directed by Carl Cofield. Miami New Drama is the resident company at the City of Miami Beach's historic Colony Theatre on Lincoln Road, and is the winner of two Knight Arts Challenge awards and a Knight New Works Miami award from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.