We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Politics meets Sabado Gigante in Gala Hispanic Theater’s raucous musical satire Puerto Rico en…Cantado. Playwright Angel Vá#zquez and director Ernesto Concepción star as Juanes del puebloregular Puerto Rican Joesflanked by Juanas Vicky Leyva and Vera Soltero. Singing new lyrics to popular melodies, the four explore what it means to be Puerto Rican, touching on issues of race, national identity, economics, and language. Though avowedly opposed to any West Side Story comparisons, the characters serve mostly as means to an end. In a sketch illustrating the show’s most common themePuerto Rico’s problematic relationship with the rest of the United StatesVázquez plays a patient trying to confide an embarrassing realization he’s recently had to his therapist, Concepció#n: Since he was a child, Vazquez says, he’s had these strange inclinations. Despite growing up with a picture of John F. Kennedy on his refrigerator, he’s recently become beguiled by the silver tongue of Luis Gutiérrez, a prominent advocate for Puerto Rican independence. The therapist, mistaking the identity issue, urges the patient to open up and declare himself. After the patient finally announces, “I’m a closet…independence supporter!” the doctor tells him he can’t see him anymore. “But why, doctor?…You yourself said you had the same inclinations as I did.” And here’s where the sketch goes all Channel Ocho on us: The doctor hugs him, bats his eyelashes, and says, “Yes, I have inclinations, but they’re different,” sending the patient screaming out of the office. And so it goes. En Cantado’s premise is intriguing, and the performers tear into their songs and dances with skill and enthusiasm, yet the punch lines often beg for a rim shot. Diana Sirak’s versatile costumessmall changes in accessories signal a new characterserve the rapid pace of the show well. Vázquez and Concepción open up their small space with a second-story gallery, which alternately serves as the cargo-handling area of an airport and a balcony for soloistsa live band, Los Juanetes, plays below. Don’t bother to try to listen to the simultaneous translation during the musical numbersthe amplification in the tiny Warehouse Theatre is too loud. Read the director’s notes even if you understand Spanishthe program provides useful background. And finally, please suppress the Stephen Sondheim quotes until you are out of the building.Janet Hopf