The Happiest Song Plays Last – by Lara Jung

May 14, 2013 in Blog by Cindy-Bandle-Young-Critics

Everyday I plug in my earbuds as I get ready to walk home from school. I listen to alternative mostly, but recently, I’ve been listening to cuadro.

Going in, I had never heard of the music, and had only seen Quiara Alegria  Hudes’ In the Heights when I was in the 6th grade. Coming out of the theatre, I couldn’t get that cuadro music out of my head. Unfortunately, the music wasn’t quite enough to make me feel less unsettled after watching the play.

Based on Hudes’ cousin, the play is a part of a trilogy, chronicling the lives of soldier Elliot (played by Armando Riesco) and his philanthropic activist cousin Yaz (played by Sandra Marquez. Both characters live on opposite sides of the world.  The audience watches as Elliot struggles to overcome his past and Yaz tries to find her way in an uncertain future.

The problem with the story is that there is too much of it. Elliot is off in Jordan shooting an action movie (which seemed a little ridiculous to begin with).  Yaz is contemplating having a baby with her mentor, a man twice her own age. I could not get past that plot twist. Then, the old guy dies—making her pregnancy that much more exciting of course. The storylines seems scattered and exhausting.

There are, however, moments of true honesty that seemed like a part of an entirely different play. The musician, Nelson González adds layer to the play that it needed. His music is particularly exciting because it gives a break from the constant emotional barrage.  The one plotline that I found particularly chilling is  that between Yaz and Lefty (portrayed by James Harms). Lefty is a mentally unstable man that Yaz essentially mothers. Once the old man dies, a distraught Yaz kicks Lefty out of her house. She grapples with the loss of a friend and father to her child. At the same time, she struggles to fins her place in an unclear future. The raw emotion portrayed by both Harms and Marquez made the little hairs on my arm stand straight up.

So while I often felt like there was too much going on, the actors’ portrayal is arresting. The problem for me came with an almost unbelievable plot matched with a more sincere cast. That disconnect left me confused about how to feel. The music allowed me to focus less on the unrealistic plot and more on the emotion. At the end, I most certainly had tears in my eyes; it was heavy stuff, to be sure, but that’s coming from the person who cries at the end of Marley and Me.