Welcome to Arroyo’s, San Diego

Welcome to Arroyo’s

By Kristoffer Diaz
Directed by Jaime Castañeda
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre
The Old Globe
San Diego (West Coast premiere)
Sept. 25-Oct. 31, 2010
www.TheOldGlobe.org

Welcome to Arroyo’s, a new Lower East Side lounge ran by Alejandro. The tale is presented to us by a Greek chorus of two comical hip-hop DJs. With their help, we discover that Alejandro is struggling to build a clientele, while grieving the recent loss of his mother. Adding to these challenges is a defiant sister, Molly, who hopes to gain notoriety as a graffiti artist. The list of conflicts grows when Alejandro also has to contend with an enigmatic and mesmerizing visitor who might hold a family secret that could change the history of hip-hop music.

The DJ duo, Trip Goldstein and Nelson Cardenal, is played by multi-talented artists Wade Allain-Marcus and GQ. They provide the matrix for the drama at hand. From DJing to beat boxing, break dancing and character impersonations, they do it all. And, oh yeah, they’re great comedians, too. Amirah Vann gives a remarkable performance as 18-year-old Amalia (Molly) Arroyo and Andres Munar is her older brother Alejandro. Munar does a great job at painting a complex portrait for this grieving character. Lelly Santiago, a charming intellectual hip-hop research enthusiast, is played by Tala Ashe, and Byron Bronson is Officer Derek, a rookie cop who has a soft spot for rebellious Molly.

“Welcome to Arroyo’s” first premiered at American Theater Company in Chicago this past spring, but for the first time, it is presented in the round in this West Coast premiere. The new state-of-the-art space at the Old Globe (the Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre) is the perfect venue for the happening work by Kristoffer Diaz. It provides an exclusive intimacy between the spectators and the artists. Indeed, while witnessing the going-ons in “Welcome to Arroyo’s,” the audience can forget about the fourth wall, or any wall at all for that matter. They all fall down, not only between the audience and the characters, but between the characters themselves. Different theatrical realms overlap each other, and the hip-hop narrators, to the delight of the public, enjoy playing and manipulating the scenes to illustrate their point. They can rewind the action, replay it, pause it, comment on it and participate in it.

This production is wonderfully directed by Jaime Castañeda, who has been working on the “Arroyo’s” project since 2003. Castañeda and playwright Diaz (2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”) have been working together for some time and their partnership is producing great results. The rest of the creative team includes Shammy Dee as proficient music director, skilled Takeshi Kata as scenic designer, Charlotte Devaux for costumes, Matthew Richards for lights and Paul Peterson as sound designer. The urban art is by Writerz Blok and projection design by Aaron Rhyne.

As part of the growing Old Globe Southeastern San Diego Residency Project, an important program that aims to build a deeper neighborhood connection, “Welcome to Arroyo’s” hits its mark as a brilliant multicultural and cross-generational theater piece. Audiences across the board will enjoy and relate to the story.

Patricia Humeau