Before I begin to speak on the Harlem Repertory Theatre's production of In the Heights, I believe it is important to remind the reader of what it is we do at PXP. We at PXP are not critics, we are not tasked with analyzing a production nor sharing an opinion as to whether a piece is artistically meritorious. For this particular piece I shall bend the rules and say that the members of the Harlem Repertory Theatre were outstanding. I say this, to say, I was thoroughly moved by the performance and by the company and what it represents. As a poet, one of my personal heroes has always been Langston Hughes and it was his dream for theatre to be accessible to the people of Harlem, this company makes that so.
I felt a part of the community which they painted on stage. The actors danced in the aisles of the audience which created an intimacy because I could literally reach out and touch the actors, and I could see the sweat dripping from their foreheads. It was very cool to have the show come to life for me by an actor merely looking me in the eye. That simple action made me feel seen which took me immediately out of the mindset of being an audience member, and into the actual story.
In the Heights was a story of wanderlust, the struggles of love and classism, and the ability to have "paciencia y fe" (patience and faith) when it's easy to give up hope. The story is about the everyday struggles of being human and what it is that defines our humanity. Our humanity is defined by our ability to love. We as humans can love on different levels simultaneous. There exists familial love, self-love, the love of one's community and surroundings (I might call it pride), the love of one's neighbors (I might call it friendship), the love of one's homeland. These messages were delivered in a way that spoke to my soul, through music.
The song and dance, the stories of Usnavi (the hopeful dreamer) and Nina (the immigrant's child) reminded me of several friends. Usnavi reminded me of my friend whose family came from the Dominican Republic for a better life. They both make me feel a sadness because they are missing a place/concept of home, when in fact they have been home all along. Nina reminds me of the countless friends I had during high school whose parents also came to America in hopes of providing a better life for her. Nina makes me cry because her story is not far off from mine, the pain of losing a scholarship, of disappointing one's parents and the struggles of maintaining self while at college. Nina however comes out strong and proves that when life leads us astray, the ones we love can help correct our paths. These characters embody myself and so many of my loved ones which is why I feel so strongly about the piece. Another character who I fell in love with was Sonny. I wanted to hug Sonny and love him because the bond he shared with his cousin Usnavi was beautiful. I had a sadness in my heart, I guess nostalgia is the appropriate word, because I miss those familial binds with my extended family. I hate this machismo façade, as if the older we get the more they forget how to love, but Sonny loved.
The songs in this musicals were the cherry on top. The tunes were catchy, in particular numbers such as "No Me Digas", "Carnival del Barrio", and "Piraguas". The common Dominicanisms, mentions of mamey, sexy dance moves made me want to yell "wepa". I've been talking about It non-stop with friends.