Marietta’s New Theatre In The Square recently ran La Gringa, a story about a young Puerto Rican woman from New York “going home” to find her roots. She gets more, and less, than she bargained for in this family-friendly comedy.
(Note: I did attend this event at no cost in exchange for writing this post. However, all opinions are my own.)
Prior to the play, there was a party of sorts in the lobby. Live music, a DJ, Latin food, and frozen tropical drinks provided a festive atmosphere for the audience. The Cuban Diner provided delicious and authentic empanadas, croquettes, and even ceviche. At the concession stand, there were frozen alcohol-free piña coladas, tres leche, and flan.
Obra de Teatro
OK, my Spanish is less than Maria’s in this heartwarming and funny story, so that’s all I’ll foist on you. Fortunately for me, this presentation of La Gringa by Carmen Rivera was in English. The play opens with cousins Maria, our protagonist, and Iris returning from the airport. Iris is frustrated with Maria’s eternal gushing and picture taking on her first trip to Puerto Rico. See, Maria thinks that her visit will finally allow her to embrace her true identity. But she learns it’s not that easy.
Not only does Maria not speak Spanish well, she is not a native of Puerto Rico. She also feels out of place at home because in New York people are always saying she is Puerto Rican and not American. When she decides she is going to stay in Puerto Rico, she unsuccessfully interviews for a job and is told she doesn’t qualify because she is not Puerto Rican. She feels she is a woman without a country.
Family Is Complicated
As a backdrop to Maria’s identity crisis is a family dynamic she is unaware of. Her Aunt Norma is the younger sister of Maria’s mother. She, her husband Victor, and Iris live in the family home with Norma’s brother, Manolo. We learn she feels she has been abandoned by her sister to care for the house and Manolo, who is ill. Past actions have soured Norma, making her feel insecure and distrustful of Maria’s visit.
Ah, Sweet Love
Not all is family and disappointment. Maria also meets Monchi who falls in love with our plucky heroine. An entrepreneurial farmer, Monchi is trying his hardest to keep his farm going on his own. No one wants to work on the farm, even though it’s good money and people, like Iris, are looking for work. Maria decides to help one day and displays her city girl-ness trying to pick vegetables at the crack of dawn.
Maria has an agenda of activities she wants to undertake while visiting. One of those is visiting her grandmother’s grave. Her aunt and cousin want nothing to do with this as the trip is long. But Manolo, with whom Maria strikes a strong bond, contrives a way to grant Maria’s wish. With help from Victor and Monchi, Maria has an exciting jaunt and maybe even finds herself along the way.
It’s A Wrap
I won’t ruin the ending for you with the exception of this: it’s certainly bittersweet. The cast was great in this play. They did a fantastic job as a unit. We could especially feel the energy during the Christmas Bombas they performed. They were really having a good time together.
Emil Thomas directed this jewel. I enjoyed his interpretation of Native Son (see my review of that here). I am hopeful to catch a couple of the upcoming plays, especially Glass Menagerie and Gift of the Magi which are coming up after the summer break. If I do get to see those, I will certainly tell you about them here.
If you wish to support local theater, please attend plays in your area. Show your love and appreciation by being a part of the audience.