El Grito Del Bronx
“El grito de Dolores” was a cry for freedom, the battle cry of Mexico’s war of independence. El Grito Del Bronx is a sort of freedom call as well; in an abstracted way, the characters in Cruz’s compelling but overstuffed new play are all seeking escape from violence. Lulu (Sandra Delgado), a Bronx-born young woman of Puerto Rican descent, discovers she can’t move forward in her relationship or her life until she reconciles herself with her brother, Papo (Juan Villa), a convicted serial killer living with AIDS on death row. Both have forsaken their childhood names; in flashback, we see their younger selves, Magdalena and Jesus, terrorized by their father.
The Bronx-based playwright’s fragmented style forces us to work to make the story cohere; several of Papo’s victims appear, as do one of their mothers and another mother of an unconnected accident victim interviewed by Lulu’s reporter boyfriend. The boyfriend is also on the scene, as is Papo’s cell-neighbor, who gives Papo someone to tell his story to, when he isn’t talking to the ghosts of his father or his targets.
If Cruz’s poeticism can be somewhat bewildering in the moment—the storytelling is as sparing as the symbolism is overbearing—Moseley’s gorgeous production, featuring a striking multitiered set by Regina Garcia and masterful lighting by Jeremy Getz, captivates with an adept 15-person cast. We’re still not sure we buy all of Cruz’s narrative leaps, but her scattered story manages to enthrall nonetheless.