Volume 80, Number 13 | August 26 - September 1, 2010
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

FringeNYC shows: Get’em while they’re hot

OMARYS CONCEPCION LOPEZ PEREZ
GOES TO ISRAEL (TO SPEAK TO GOD
AT THE WAILING WALL)
Written & Performed by Leila Arias
40 minutes (comedy/solo show)
Aug. 29, 3 p.m.
At Players Loft (115 McDougal St., btw. W. Third & Bleeker)
For info, visit www.FringeNYC.org or call 866-468-7619
Visit www.leilaarias.com 

Photo by George Warner

Leila Arias as a lusty Jamaican security guard in “Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez…”

Bronx Puerto Rican girl works that Wailing Wall

BY SCOTT STIFFLER 

There’s something oddly compelling — but difficult to pinpoint — about a performer who comes across as subtle while portraying larger than life characters.

Leila Arias starts her show by sparring with an unseen passerby who chides her for showing cleavage at a holy venue. “I am not showing my cleavage,” she asserts. “It’s showing itself.” Nevertheless, she relents and — with a Puerto Rican flag diplomatically draped over her ample bosoms — she talks to God and takes him into her confidence. That cane she’s carrying, it turns out, isn’t even a cane. It’s half of a shower rod…and that foot brace isn’t necessary. Both cane and brace were part of her dad’s ruse to get special treatment at the airport, and maybe even an upgrade to first class.

That God happens to reside in the same general direction as the audience makes us feel as if we’re the one she’s talking to…which make us, well, God. It’s a nice little theatrical conceit that gives the viewer an ego boost. It gets us on her side and keeps us there.

Arias (or, more accurately, her alter ego Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez) further endears herself to us (God?) when she comes clean about the fake handicapped act — sheepishly admitting the deception and then quickly segueing into the real reason this mostly good Puerto Rican Catholic girl from the Bronx has found herself in Israel spilling her guts out to the Wailing Wall — which, like God, is in the same location as the audience. So now we’re both omnipotent and wall-like. Think about that.

Ms. Perez’s dilemma revolves around whether or not she should become a “Mrs.” by marrying her Dominican fiancé Hector — who used to be muscular and attentive but these days can’t tear himself away from the TV long enough to notice her stripper routine.

In addition to the recreated scenes between Omarys and Hector are remembered conversations with her mom — and present-moment interactions with a lusty Jamaican security guard and a nice old Jewish lady. All these characters, as played by Arias, are not your usual overblown solo comedy show characters. They’re eccentric and comedic, to be sure — but Arias resists the temptation to make them into cartoonish characters whose presence is merely a source of guaranteed laughs.

Arias morphs into her mom and that nice old Jewish lady by donning different glasses — which, between scenes, she keeps hidden at the back of her large gold Batgirl-like (utility) belt. Glasses go off, character goes away — perfect for the bare bones Fringe aesthetic.

In the small Players Loft space, Arias’ voice barely carries past the second row. Maybe the air conditioner was muffling her. Maybe she needs some vocal coaching so she projects more — or maybe it’s just her style. No matter what the reason, it worked. Here was one solo performer who didn’t have to scream to get her point across — and whose soft voice and understated delivery made us want to work hard to listen to what she had to say.


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