BWW Review: WELCOME TO ARROYO'S at Theater Schmeater
Welcome to Arroyo's is the story of two siblings in the aftermath of the death of their mother. Alejandro and Molly (Amalya) have different ways of honoring her memory that pervades every inch of their space - the business she ran below, and their apartment above. Alejandro decides to convert his mother's deli into a bar and lounge. Molly throws her grief out into the world in the form of graffiti. When neither of them is particularly successful, a stranger enters their lives and shakes things up.
Lelly, short of Elizabeth, is originally from the neighborhood but has transformed herself through college to the point that she no longer fits in. The lounge's DJs, Nel and Trip, acknowledge that even though she's Puerto Rican, she's a white girl. During her time in college, Lelly funneled her interest in the birth of hiphop into a research project. Here she found evidence of contributions of not only Puerto Ricans but also of women, most notably a woman called Reina Rey who was spinning tunes and rapping in both English and Spanish in the South Bronx during the late 1970s. Her research brings her to Arroyo's doorstep. Who was Reina Rey, and what is her connection to Alejandro and Molly?
Well, don't expect me to give you all the answers. I'm only here to tell you if this story, and this show are worth your time and money to which is the answer is a most resounding yes. Welcome to Arroyo's combines humor, pop culture references, and real world problems into a rich tapestry of storytelling. Director Jay O'Leary speaks about the shows emotional rhythms. Indeed the story beats with a pulse that is underlined by the music and accentuated with the lighting. The show breaths, and occasionally makes you hold your breath.
Nel (Michael Cercado) and Trip (Richard Sean Glen), the DJs at Arroyo's, provide a backdrop and narration to all the characters. Their humor is constantly sprinkled throughout the show, sometimes biting, sometimes sly and clever, but always genuine. Their chemistry would lead you to believe that they really are lifelong friends with their own secret handshake, inside jokes, and the ability to finish each other's sentences. Individually they are great. Together, they are stellar.
Tony Magaña, Jr. and Ashley Salazar who play the siblings Alejandro and Molly are the heart of the show. Their pain, loss, and struggles are where we all find common ground. Everyone has experienced loss, and everyone must find a way to move forward. They reactions remind us how emotions that go unchecked can lead us to places we don't want to be. It is through each other, through friends both old and new, and through community that they find healing. Both Magaña and Salazar find ways to say a lot more than the words of their actual lines.
Lelly, played by Anasofia Gallegos is both the interloper and the unifier. She provides the pivot point of the show that allows the main characters to change their trajectories. She is offhandedly disarming. Her smile is infectious, and her monologues are some of the cleverest bits of the show. She pulls it off with an air of nonchalance that defies the true depth of her character. Ever time Lelly exited, it made me realize that I wanted to hear her more. If playwright Kristoffer Diaz wanted to write a sequel or spin off, I think it should center on Lelly, and Gallegos should be required to reprise her role.
The show only has one more character, Officer Derek, played by Naa Akua. This character rounds out the show giving it a fullness and richness that is unexpected from a non-essential character. Akua brings a lot to the table; subtleties, presence, and for lack of a better word, grace. The chemistry between Officer Derek and Molly is palpable. When Officer Derek looks at Molly, she finally feels like someone sees her, the real her. Akua's character has a bit of backstory as well that adds to both the depth and humor of the show.
Despite it's lack of intermission, the show seems to fly by. The pacing is tight, and the beats of the music parallel the heartbeat of the show. Welcome to Arroyo's is truly a community center for adults...with alcohol.
Welcome to Arroyo's performs at Theater Schmeater through June 2. For tickets or information, visit www.schmee.org.