American Theater Company presents
WELCOME TO ARROYO
1909 W. Byron Street
Written by Kristoffer Diaz
Directed by Jaime Casteneda
Thru May 16th
Running Time: Two hours and fifteen minutes includes a ten minute delay start and ten minute intermission.
By Katy Walsh
Tupac, Grandmaster Flash, Kool Herc, Raina Rae? The hip-hop culture started in the South Bronx in the 1970’s. It was a musical genre that permeated into clothing and art as expressions of style. American Theater Company presents WELCOME TO ARROYO, a hip-hop play by Kristoffer Diaz. Set in New York City in 2004, two DJ’s narrate the tale of individuals in a Puerto Rican community struggling with identity. The bartender at Arroyo clings to his mom’s memory and resists change. His sister is a graffiti artist tagging the police station with her signature. A neighborhood transplant wants her homecoming to be the published discovery of Puerto Rican roots in the hip-hop genesis. A cop battles harassment over his celebrity name association. In WELCOME TO ARROYO, two DJ’s emcee four lives looping together for an entertaining hip hop mix.
Rapping, DJing, sampling, scratching and beatboxing, Jackson Doran (Trip) and Gregory Qaiyum “GQ” (Nelson) are the playful narrators of the show. The storytelling duo is the comedy. Their commentary to the play’s action is hilarious! Both talented rappers, their chemistry combo is double dutch bus rapper’s delight. Joe Minoso (Alejandro) plays everybody’s favorite dependable bartender. He broadens his stereotype with a vulnerable infatuation twist. Christina Nieves (Amalia) is angry. As the misunderstood artist, Nieves rages with defiance. Sadieh Rifal (Lelly) is delightful as a fast-talking book geek. Rifal serves as a secondary narrator to relate the history of hip-hop as her lifetime obsession. Edgar Miguel Sanchez (Derek Jeter) is the law enforcement victim in his career and love life. In the first act, Sanchez and Minoso are fantastically funny in a repeated rewind scene.
The Hip-Hop movement and WELCOME TO ARROYO are all about identity. Who am I? How do I express it? In Act I, Kristoffer Diaz lays the foundation of the play and its characters in a well-paced and amusing way. The flow stays witty and sharp largely due to the comical influence of Doran and GQ. In Act II, the script loses some of its uniqueness and hip-hop narration. The storyline goes flat with the decreased presence of Doran and GQ. “Hey Mr. DJ, put another record on!” At Arroyo’s, it’s the DJs’ busting rhymes that sways the tone of the action.
With strong roots in all pop culture, Jasleen describes the show with, “hip-hop, identity, family.”
WAITING FOR THE SHOW
En route to American Theatre Company, we dined at Frasca’s, 3358 N. Paulina. The Monday night special is half price bottles of wine. Welcome to Frasca’s! A neighbor staple, Frasca’s staff is always friendly and attentive. Maybe even too attentive! A busser really wanted our salad plates and repeatedly requested them. Knowing who we are; strong, independent women that like to eat salad with their pizza, Jasleen and I held true to our identity and our salad plates. It was worth it. The caprese salad is made with fresh mozzarella and red dried tomatoes and a slightly sweet balsamic. Coupled with the prosciutto pizza, the sampling is a tasty combo to beatbox about.
Welcome to Arroyo photos courtesy of Chris Plevin.