Off-Off-Broadway Theater Review: COMIDA DE PUTA (MultiStages Theatre)

by Dmitry Zvonkov on April 14, 2015

in Theater-New York

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PUTA TO THE TEST

Inspired by the Ancient Greek drama surrounding Hippolytus, and set in a present-day South Bronx bodega, Desi Moreno-Penson’s new play Comida De Puta attempts to combine Nuyorican history and mythology, Espiritismo, and modernity into a mystical tapestry of magical realism that she calls Nuyorican Gothic: “stylized, dark, fantastical plays that take place in the Bronx, featuring heightened, poetic language and Nuyorican characters.” (A Nuyorican is a Puerto Rican born and raised in New York City.) But although the concept sounds fascinating, the show, directed ably for the most part by Lorca Peress, is only moderately successful; while rich in accoutrements—a one-man Greek chorus in the form of a young rapper named Manny (Marcos Sotomayor); descriptions of spells; personifications of gods and spirits on stage and in projections—there simply isn’t enough story to fill the production’s two-hour-plus runtime.

Alex R. Hernandez, Darlenis Duran, and Marcos Sotomayor in COMIDA DE PUTA.

Comida De Puta centers on Laluz (Mariana Parma), the sultry new wife of the owner of a run-down bodega, and her secret lust for his son Sotero (Alex R. Hernandez). Laluz, who may have killed her own grandmother with an evil spell, is now attempting to do the same to her husband, while simultaneously trying to get him to sell his disintegrating business to Minotaur, a Whole Foods-like organic supermarket chain which personifies the forces of gentrification that are destroying small businesses in NYC and which her old-school husband detests.

Darlenis Duran and Alex R. Hernandez in COMIDA DE PUTA.

Except in the few stylized scenes, which are so laughably acted they are embarrassing to watch, Ms. Peress does a fine job guiding her performers. Indeed, their engaging renderings of what are, for the most part, stock characters, are one of the elements that make this overlong show as watchable as it is; especially riveting is Gustavo Heredia as Laluz’s husband Viejo, the nostalgic, hot-tempered, old-fashioned Nuyorican bodega owner out of step with the modern marketplace and culture.

Mariana Parma and Gustavo Heredia (with Anita Velez on screen) in COMIDA DE PUTA.

Before the show begins we are informed that Comida De Puta is still a work in progress, so there is hope it will improve. One thing that would help would be to remove all the redundant dialogue; another would be to make the story with the grandmother happen in the present as opposed to in flashback; and a third would be to dispense with all the projections, which don’t work on an aesthetic level and are dramatically unnecessary. A lean story and aggressive drama would also help to mitigate other issues, such as the lack of authenticity to the characters and the hackneyed feel of the themes. It also might assist in building that magical reality, that Nuyorican Gothic world, that Ms. Moreno-Penson is trying to create.

Darlenis Duran and Mariana Parma in COMIDA DE PUTA.

Additional cast: Roseanne Almanzar, Darlenis Duran, Venuz Delmar, Dennis Gagomiros, Mykal Monroe, Suni Reyes, Anita Velez-Mitchell, Jane Velez-Mitchell.

Roseanne Almanzar, Gustavo Heredia, and Mariana Parma in COMIDA DE PUTA.

photos by John Quilty

Comida De Puta
MultiStages Theatre
The West End Theatre
Church of St Paul and St Andrew, 263 West 86th St
scheduled to end on April 26, 2015
for tickets, call 212 874-4837 or visit www.multistages.org

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