Posts Tagged ‘welcome to arroyo’s’

Welcome to Arroyo’s
by Kristoffer Diaz
Directed by Brittanie Gunn
Tesseract Theatre Company
April 29, 2023

Victor Mendez
Photo: Tesseract Theatre Company

Welcome to Arroyo’s! That’s the name of Tesseract Theatre Company’s latest show, currently being staged at the .ZACK Theatre. Production-wise, it’s vibrant and fun, with an energetic cast. The play itself can be frustrating in its structure at times, but for the most part it’s an intriguing journey into the world of a small New York City bar, its staff and would-be regulars, with a lively, mostly hip-hop soundtrack.

The story, narrated alternatingly by aspiring rap duo Nelson (Kevin Corpuz) and Trip (Jacob Schmidt), and by earnest grad student Lelly (Hannah de Oliveira), follows three main threads, as Alejandro (Victor Mendez) strives to turn his mother’s former bodega into a thriving bar; Alejandro’s younger sister Molly (Remi Mark), a graffiti artist, looks to establish a name for herself despite run-ins with the police, including Officer Derek (Marshall Jennings), with whom she develops a reluctant attraction; and Lelly’s quest to discover the identity of an influential figure in the early hip-hop scene, about whom she’s writing a thesis. These stories all intersect at various points, with the bar as the central locale, but really, it’s a story about hopes, dreams, personal history, family connections, and the role of a community in the lives of its residents, and vice versa.

It’s a compelling story, for the most part, with memorable characters, a good dose of humor, and excellent use of music. Still, the structure can be a little difficult to follow at times, as each plot keeps putting off key revelations in ways that seem more designed to frustrate the audience than to really drive the story. At Tesseract, the story is well-played, though, with the characters and memorable performances bringing energy to the overall presentation, along with vibrant production values.

The production manager is Sarah Baucom, but there’s no credit given to the set designer or projection designer, although the simple but effective set and memorable projections provide much of the overall atmosphere. Also contributing to the mood are Tony Anselmo’s eye-catching lighting and Jaz Tucker’s excellent sound design. The hip-hop soundtrack and use of other music adds much to the overall energy of the show.

As for the cast, the standouts here are Corpuz and Schmidt, who are both hilarious and personable as the aspiring hip-hop artists who work at the bar. Much of the play’s energy and humor comes from these two, and they energize all the scenes they are in. Mark and Jennings are also strong as the rebellious Molly and somewhat weary but well-meaning cop Derek, who has his own identity issues to deal with concerning sharing his name with a celebrity. Mendez also puts in a solid performance as Alejandro, making the most of a part that isn’t given much to do beyond being alternately sad and determined; and de Oliveira is fine as Lelly, although she could use more energy in some moments. Overall, it’s a cohesive cast that makes the most of this show’s oddly organized script.

While the script is not without its flaws, Welcome to Arroyo’s is a compelling story with good characters and lots of humor and heart. It’s a show about relationships between people, as well as between artists and their art, and individuals and the communities in which they live.  At Tesseract, it’s an entertaining and thoughtful production.

Remi Mark, Marshall Jennings
Photo: Tesseract Theatre Company

The Tesseract Theatre Company is presenting Welcome to Arroyo’s at the .ZACK Theatre until May 7, 2023

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