Review: WELCOME TO ARROYO'S at Profile Theatre

This must-see production runs through February 26.

By: Feb. 16, 2023
Review: WELCOME TO ARROYO'S at Profile Theatre
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Kristoffer Diaz's WELCOME TO ARROYO'S, now running at Profile Theatre, is the best show I've seen since last October, when Profile staged Diaz's THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY. That's the joy of the Profile model of featuring a single playwright for a whole season - if there's a playwright you really love, you get to see a lot of their work (currently, there are a trio of featured artists).

Diaz has an extraordinary ability to make me care deeply about things that I'd never spent much time thinking about before - in CHAD DEITY, it was professional wrestling; in WELCOME TO ARROYO'S, it's the Puerto Rican contribution to the origins of hip-hop on New York's Lower East Side. In both cases, I entered the theatre knowing absolutely nothing about the topic and left feeling like it was the most important thing in the world.

WELCOME TO ARROYO'S is not actually about hip-hop. It's about a family whose history may (or may not) have intersected with the genre's origins decades ago and their current place in the changing city.

At the center of the story is Alejandro (Jonathan Hernandez) and his younger sister Molly (Elvia Reed), who are each dealing in their own dysfunctional ways with the recent sudden death of their mother. Alejandro has turned the family's bodega into a bar (or, as he calls it, a "lounge") that has yet to attract any customers, while Molly tempts fate by spray-painting her name on the wall of the local police station.

They each meet someone who forces them to reckon with their grief and trace a new path forward. For Alejandro, it's Lelly (Sydney Arentsen), a college student from the neighborhood who has returned to solve a mystery about the origins of hip-hop, while for Molly, it's Derek (Blake Stone), the police officer charged with removing her tag from the station wall. Added to the mix are two DJs and rappers, Trip (Ben Johnson) and Nelson (Anthony "Tron" Parrish), who serve as a Greek chorus of sorts, providing narration and commentary.

The play is about family, grief, love, art, and the importance of being open to new perspectives and experiences. But more than anything else, it's about community.

I loved so much about this play and production, which was directed by Bobby Bermea. The writing is razor-sharp, the characters are beautifully human and their relationships are deep and complex, the set design (Megan Wilkerson) and lighting design (Kelly Terry) are fantastic, and the production is full of energy. The cast is excellent - you'd never guess that several of them are new to the theatrical stage.

I don't know what else to say besides go see this show. Go because it's fun, go for Blake Stone's charming performance, go because it's cold outside but you're tired of sitting in your house. Whatever, just go.

WELCOME TO ARROYO'S runs through February 26 at Imago Theatre. More details and tickets here.


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