Review: Empanada Loca

I was excited to see Daphne Rubin-Vega take on a one-woman show at the Labyrinth Theatre last night and I was not let down at all. She is a much better actress than she is a singer (years of performing Rent and The Rocky Horror Show will do that to you, I suppose).

It was my friend Steve’s first time seeing her live onstage and he was excessively excited. We took our front row seats and waited as the lights went down and DRV came out, in the darkness at first, and started speaking, presumably to us.

Empanada Loca was about a woman named Dolores who was living underneath the subways after what some would consider a challenging life. Her mother was shot, her father died, and then the drug dealer with whom she was in a relationship set her up and she went to prison for 13 years. Loca was inspired by the well-known tale of Sweeney Todd about the barber who would kill his enemies in the barber chair and Mrs. Lovett would bake the human flesh into pies. DRV was essentially a gritty, streetwise Mrs. Lovett, who killed people on her massage table (a trade she’d picked up in the tombs) in her apartment below Empanada Loca and the owner bakes the people into his empanadas. Read on for the twist ending….

The twist? The lights go down and you hear the sounds of her lunging forth at something, the person she’s been talking to. After lighting a trash can on fire, begins roasting a large rat. So, that’s who she’s been talking to the entire time – a rat. We were jolted, having thought she was talking to the audience the entire time. The audience is now aware that she is 100% so we’re left wondering, what was true about her story?

We’ll never know.

DRV really the audiences attention for the entire 100 minutes. This is really worth seeing should you have the chance to make it down to Bank Street. DRV came out rather quickly after the show, and we couldn’t help ourselves to a photo with her. She really is just the sweetest. Oh, and there was definitely a Rent fan there with a Rent t-shirt on which was much appreciated by DRV.

Just two kids who met when they were 11 in the Theatre chatroom on AOL because of a mutual love of Rent with Daphne Rubin Vega. We’re pretty sure our friendship peaked at that moment. 

Empanada Loca – Labyrinth Theater Company

First show since I got back into the country. Wow. It’s been way too long. Going to see this tonight at the Labyrinth Theater down on Bank Street. I originally picked up the tickets because Daphne Rubin-Vega is in it and I don’t know the last time I saw her onstage (oh, wait, it was Les Miserables but I’ve tried as hard as possible to forget that production). 

After a quick Google search to figure out what the hell this is about, I come to find out that this is a one-woman-show. To say I’m excited doesn’t cut it. 

(Bonus: there’s no intermission.)

Empanada Loca – Labyrinth Theater Company

I have set lists from Julia Murney’s album release concert, a Tom Kitt Band concert, and a Daphne Rubin Vega concert already framed. #theatrenerd

But now I have these that I also need to frame and then I thought I’d make a collage on my wall. From left to right: Ted Leo, Guster, and Jeff Daniels.

Two weeks ago, David invited me to see the most recent revival of A Streetcar Named Desire, currently playing at the Broadhurst Theatre, with him. I was itching to see a new interpretation on the script, so of course I said yes. I saw the last revival at Roundabout two or three times. It was a beautiful, classic revival starring the late Natasha Richardson and John C. Reilly. I was eager to see what this cast of newcomers could do with the material.

Well, first, I’d forgotten how long Streetcar is. It’s close to three hours long, and in a world of “90-minutes-no-intermission” shows, that’s hard to swallow. But we get through it, of course. A Streetcar, after the first scene is when the last 1/3 of the audience comes into the theatre. No, really, it was ridiculous how many people were seated.

But I digress. The set was fitting and depressingly beautiful, while the lighting was awe inspiring, it was so aesthetically pleasing. I very much enjoyed Daphne Rubin Vega as the love-sick and abused Stella, despite having heard not so positive things at first. Wood Harris, as the surprisingly chivalrous Mitch, was endearing and quite perfect. Blair Underwood was strong and intimidating as the iconic Stanley Kowalski, probably more so than John C. Reilly ever was. 

The real star of this cast was Nicole Ari Parker as the pathologically lying and pathetically delusional Blanche DuBoise. Her quick mental and physical demise before the audiences eyes was astounding. It was a crazier interpretation than Richardson’s, but it was still absolutely affective.  

The one bone I have to pick with this production was the direction. At one very quiet, intense moment in the second act during a speech given by Blanche, a member of the company dressed like an old woman waddled across the stage mumbling words. It was the oddest thing I’d ever seen. Streetcar was probably 25 minutes longer than it had to be because the scene changes took so long. Had they been shorter, we’d have been out of there before 11pm. 

Overall though, it’s a successful (albeit different) mounting of Streetcar.