You get No Problemo Amigo, a new play penned by 30-year-old Columbian writer, Jaime Espinal.
The play, performed while switching between English and Spanish with subtitles, ventures into the world of an office worker, Jorge Rave as he searches for himself in a new place, the United States of America while working at the headquarters of Exchange Students Paradise in Arizona.
Jorge sets up foreign students with would-be overbearing host parents. But Jorge—whose name is often mistaken by Americans for the oldest profession in the world — has a secret that he is desperately trying to keep.
The high-strung, somewhat misfit, smart and creative Jorge, moonlights as a superhero in his spare time.
All in all, he must hide his secret identity from co-workers, his boss, unsuspecting visitors and everyone that he knows before he is sent back to his country.
In the process of hiding and assimilating into American culture, Jorge stumbles upon some particularly interesting and quirky characters including his demanding boss who insists on him not being “creative” on the job. But he finds that help can sometimes come from the most unsuspecting people.
The play’s layers delve into stereotypes of Americans and Hispanics with a funny, light undertone. At the same time it touches on social, political and cultural clashes that though are funny in the play, remind the audience of some of the struggles immigrants and even exchange students face when forced to adapt in a new land.
The script was the first prize winner of the Inter American Development Bank’s (IDB) Hispanic American Playwriting Competition: “Hispanics in the U.S. but without stereotypes.”
Written by Espinal, it is adapted from his 2005 novel, Open the Window Para Que la Mosca Fly (so that the flies can fly in).
The story was inspired by Espinal’s life in Arizona when he interned there in 2003 and worked at an exchange student company. There, the characters he met helped him pen the novel and script.
“I really got to know the American style and the American culture, and the different Americas,” said the writer, who not only lived in Arizona but also resided in Idaho and New York. His permanent home is Bogota, Columbia, but he frequently spends extensive time in New York, where he studied at the New York Film Academy.
Espinal not only wrote the script, he also stars in the play. His friends, who make up the Columbian band, Los Tres Creditos, are also part of the play, providing live music and sound effects in every act. The director, Angel Gil Orrios, judged the playwriting competition and decided to work with Espinal to bring the script to life.
“The stereotypes unfortunately with Latinos are violence, drugs and marginalization and so I was moving away from that but at the same time stereotyping the Americans,” he said. “It was like a turn of wheels of humor based on American cliches and mixing that with Latino cliches to make fun of both at the same time.”
A provocative wild-west type scene along with a Men in Black and Mission Impossible scene make their way into the play fueling more laughs and stereotypes, until finally a happy ending ensues for Jorge.
The bilingual play is Thalia Spanish Theatre’s signature style and the performance by the cast transcends language barriers, making it humorous in both languages.
Thalia Spanish Theatre is located at 41-17 Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside. No Problemo Amigo runs every weekend until June 19.Visit their website for more information and tickets.