Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Theater Review: "Be Careful! The Sharks Will Eat You!" A Play About Reconciliation - By Ely Rosa Zamora

In March of 1964, Humberto Alvarez and his wife set off with some of their relatives and closest friends in a fishing boat for the United States. Among the 25 refugees aboard was their youngest son Jay, a little boy just four and a half years old whose life would be changed forever by the voyage.

As the boat started across the sea to the whispers of desperate voices, the lights of the island began to fade as if the island itself would vanish. As in the myth of Orpheus, it’s better not to look back. It’s better to keep those far away lights bright like a living flame in their hearts.

Be careful! The Sharks Will Eat You!, written and performed by Jay Alvarez, is an outstanding narrative of Humberto's carefully planned strategy to escape with his family from Cuba to the United States, told through the vivid images of his son’s childhood memories. The show, which was recently presented in the New York Fringe Festival, re-opens tonight at Stage Left Studio, where it will run through Tuesday, October 25.
Through the play's multiple characters, Alvarez brilliantly embodies the members of his family and family friends involved in the trip, sharply interweaving their inner worlds with well-researched, piercingly in-depth details of the historical political background. As a character himself, Jay lives in a liminal space; born in Cuba but raised in the United States, the island that “lives in him” is a construction based on the tales of his parents and the practices the family goes through in order to keep “that island” alive.

Jay Alvarez's ability to reconcile his bi-cultural self is touching. His solo performance takes you in an emotional rollercoaster. You will laugh, you will cry, you will grip your chair for the entire performance, and then leave the theatre with an exhilarating energy that will remain with you for hours. So plan on some coffee or café con leche after the show!

One of the most important aspects of the play is that it doesn’t try to pick sides in the cynical game of power between two governments, but instead focuses on the pains and struggles of Cuban immigrants and Cuban Americans dealing with the sense of displacement so vividly reflected in the utopian revisionism of their memories. It is refreshing to see such a delicate theme presented like a big puzzle in the form of many separate lives, still waiting to be put together into one big coherent picture.  As Humberto Alvarez said to his son Jay many years later “Sí m'ijo, I remember, immigration. We were now immigrants. We were no longer the people we thought we were.”  

Director Theresa Gambacorta’s vision, which focuses on the acting and rhythm of the multiple transitional characters, enhances the emotional load of the text creating a dreamlike atmosphere that is seamlessly effective, driving the audience to travel with the actor on his journey through the play.

Through the Alvarez family’s story we become aware of the frailties that the void of uncertainty can create, threatening and pushing us to make decisions shaped by fear.
Be Careful! The Sharks Will Eat You! Written by Jay Alvarez and directed by Theresa Gambacorta. At Stage Left Studio, 214 West 30th Street (between Seventh & Eight Avenues), Sixth Floor. Wed-Fri, Sep 7-9, at 7:30 PM; Sun, Sep 11 at 2 PM; Sun, Oct 2 at 7:30 PM; Sun, Oct 9, 16 and 23 at 2 PM; Mon-Tue, Oct 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25 at 7:30 PM. Tickets $20. For more information, visit  

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