There’s a special gift waiting for you at the Manny Fried Playhouse, where Raíces Theatre Company’s one-act play festival, “Desde el Puente: Christmas Edition,” has opened. Do what you must, in the bustle of your holiday plans, to get yourself a ticket before it closes on Dec. 17.
Yes, it’s a perfect way to ring in the holiday season, but it offers something much more lasting. Don’t let the seasonal title fool you. “Desde el Puente” translates literally to “From the Bridge,” however the interpretive “Since the Bridge” is likely the sentiment here. This is an important play for now, especially, a collection of stories about departure and arrival, family and community, origin and legacy.
Six directors and nine playwrights, all from the Raíces family, deliver stories pulled from their own lives, and the lives of the Latino community. You can sense the personal signatures of everyone involved, scrawled across the stage, shared with unconditional love.
Language is never a barrier, but in fact is a major character. Performed with a bilingual translation that fluctuates idiosyncratically, depending on the playwright’s approach, it converts what should be shared and maintains what must be preserved. There’s something beautiful in the way portions of the audience laugh at understood phrases, and the way others observe that from the next seat over. It feels appropriate to sit together as one collective audience, and still respect the delineations that mark our differences.
For those of us who don’t speak Spanish fluently, it heightens our need to listen more carefully, always a smart skill. Rest assured that everything important is conveyed, if even non-verbally. It’s an engaging way to sit in a theater with a room of strangers.
The 10 plays cover familiar holiday territory, from honoring family Christmas traditions (Dewel Pérez’s “El Cuarto Rey”), to remembering lost loved ones (Alexia Rose Guzmán’s “La Vida Sigue”), to gathering around the dinner table (Lissette DeJesus’s “Take It or Leave It”). These all play with endearing sentimentality, even if it borders on the saccharine. Get ready to hug someone.
Two plays stand out for their particular blend of comedy, drama and all the gray matter in between.
Victoria Pérez’s “Pa Chi Cha” breathes beautiful breath into a story of a father battling addiction, and a daughter who wants to move forward. Director Ingrid Córdova lets this intimate conversation air out its grievances and take a sweet step forward. In this one, there’s strength in the void, where words aren’t enough. Lissette DeJesus and Rolando Martin Gómez give captivating performances here and in other pieces, too.
Anthony Alcocer’s “A Brief 3 Minutes” fights the clock to pack a divided family’s angst into a monitored visit at the border. If this doesn’t rush your blood, then you haven’t been paying close-enough attention to our country’s immigration debate. Melinda Capeles-Rowe and Smirna Mercedes-Pérez shine here as a frantic, gushy mothers.
That these plays venture into the political should come as no surprise. The program is a tribute to local community leader, activist and writer Rafael Perez, through whom a sense for urgency and action registers as loudly as carolers at the front door. Unlike at your family’s dinner table, there are no embargoes here on real-talk, which may be the greatest Christmas miracle of all. The evening’s final beat, capping off a festive and hilarious “Parranda 101,” is a stunning reminder of the will to survive and thrive amid the world’s many storms.
“Desde el Puente: Christmas Edition”
3.5 stars (out of four)
By Raíces Theatre Company at Manny Fried Playhouse, 255 Great Arrow Ave., through Dec. 17. Times are 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are available online and at the box office. $20 general admission, $15 student/senior. (Pay-what-you-can on Dec. 14.) raicestheatrecompany.com