A Powerhouse, One-Woman Show!
by Ann Marie Cusella
isleña by Raices Theatre Company is playing from June 17th to July 3rd, 2022
Una Mujer Muy Extraordinaria
According to Google Translate, that means Victoria Pérez is an extraordinary woman. Indeed she is. Actor. Director. Playwright. Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Raices. Daughter. Wife. Mother. And can she sing! And dance the salsa. And…
Her one-woman show, written by Ms. Pérez and her sister, Maria Pérez-Gomez is 55 minutes of non-stop energy that entertains throughout. Replete with song and dance, music and love, not to mention food, Isleña is a tale of identity and the immigrant’s dilemma, that of people born in one place, living in another, and in a sense, belonging fully to neither.
We meet her in her kitchen, cooking up a batch of rice and beans, making up a song as she tastes and stirs her food. She whirls around the kitchen, joyous in celebrating her life. It is her birthday. She is 40, and worries she is beginning to do old person things. As she looks back on her life, different characters emerge. She transforms from a 40-year-old to a five-year-old to a nine-year-old, to each of her parents, her brother, her sister, a friend. She talks about her first impressions moving from Puerto Rico to Buffalo at the age of nine, (a chill in the air and it was only September), her feelings of not belonging, and the strange yet familiar family here. Her planned return to the island of her dreams after many years evokes memories long held at bay that sadden and frighten her, and with which she must come to terms. But this is mainly a joyous show, honoring her heritage, her strength, and being “a powerful woman with a strong North Star.”
Experiences Shape Us
All of this is accomplished in English, Spanglish, and rapid-fire Spanish. My Spanish is very limited, so much of the dialogue was lost to me. However, Ms. Pérez’s body language, tone, and facial expressions conveyed a great deal of the meaning, so I understood the spirit if not the words of her dialogue and songs. And dance, of course, is a universal language.
Maria-Pérez Gomez, in addition to co-writing, also directed this very lively and well-choreographed piece. The five excellent musicians, led by Music Director Kevin Doyle on keyboard, are placed behind a black screen upstage that also delineates the well-appointed kitchen and bedroom in the set designed by Tiffany Jaramillo. Light and Sound is by Nicholas Quinn.
This short play is about identity, memory, longing, and how our experiences shape us, but also expresses the ineffable something that makes each of us more than the sum of our parts. It celebrates the joy of life, and reminds us that salsa dancing can cure what ails us.
Isleña by Raices Theatre Company is at Road Less Traveled Theater through July 3rd.
Dates, Tickets and More Information
Isleña by Raices Theatre Company is playing from June 17th to July 3rd, 2022 at the Road Less Traveled Theater!