By Emma Kahn
Special to the Gazette
Inside the basement of an unassuming community center in Jamaica Plain, magic is happening. There are two elements of the supernatural when it comes to Escena Latina Teatro’s production of the play, “Cumbia de mi Corazón:” the theme of the play, which deals with the afterlife, and also the incredible talent from all who worked on the play, both on the stage and off.
Escena Latina Teatro is a local Spanish-language community theater troupe that for the past five summers has put on plays in Mozart Park in collaboration with Hyde Jackson Square Main Street. This summer’s play, “Cumbia de mi Corazón” will be performed July 19, 20 and 21 at 7:15 p.m. with food, merchants and live music beginning at 6:00 p.m. on the 19th and 20th, and 5:00 p.m. on the 21st.
“Cumbia de mi Corazón,” a play written in 2010 by Toby Campion, will be performed in Spanish with a large video screen displaying English translations. It is directed by Inés De La Cruz and plays with the connection between music, spirituality, life and family.
The central focus of “Cumbia de mi Corazón,” a comedy with layers and layers of subtext, is the idea of the afterlife and what the options are for a person after they pass away. The two main characters are Maruca and Heriberto, a married couple who attempt to reconnect in the afterlife after 50 years of separation because of the premature death of Heriberto, the husband.
Maruca and Heriberto believe that the goal of the afterlife is to go to The Big House. In addition to the couple there are three novice angels that assist in the couple’s journey: Gabi guides Maruca when she leaves her body and Raba and Uri attempt to take Heriberto.
However, due to Maruca’s Alzheimer and Heriberto’s reluctance to stop thinking of his wife who he has not seen in 50 years, the novice angels have issues transporting their subjects. But, will this journey and destination actually be important? Is The Big House as be-all end-all as it is said to be?
Full of flirting, threats, love, sadness and every emotion and action in between, “Cumbia de mi Corazón” is a heartfelt play that will leave audience members, Spanish-speaking and Anglophone alike, pondering over the message of the play for days.
The process of putting on the show was and continues to be important so that the play can be put on, but also because a sense of community is found within the organization.
According to one actor, Joe Ogando, Escena Latina Teatro has helped his Spanish skills, as they were somewhat limited before he joined. “[This production was] super helpful because I may not use Spanish as much as I would like and it gives me a place where I have to,” Ogando said.
Another actor, Chantie Parrilla, who grew up bilingual, said that this play helps her go back to her roots.
The company is directed by Juan Pedro Paniagua and is made of professional actors and people who just act as a hobby, but together, they form one unified group of people who are devoted to providing fun and free theater in Spanish for the community.
Emma Kahn is a volunteer with Hyde Jackson Square Main Street.