PROVIDENCE, RI — “La Broa (Broad Street),” opened Jan. 18 at Trinity Repertory Company, with entertaining vignettes depicting hopes and struggles of immigrants in Providence and Central Falls, glimpses of a Rhode Island’s Hispanic community long-overlooked on stage.
In “La Broa,” Rosalyn Tavarez makes a stunning debut as Ana, an earnest and good-natured woman from Texas who settles in the Ocean State.
Ana forms a tight bond with Dona Rosa (Alina Alcantara), the owner of a bodega/café. Rosa is a widow and shares her life story with Ana, an aspiring journalist. At first Rosa is wary and eyes Ana’s portable tape recorder with suspicion. Eventually, she opens up and we are transported back in time to the 1940s.
We also meet Ana’s college roommate Susan (Madeleine Russell), a somewhat naïve woman unaware of racial injustice. Ana educates her about the harsh realities people of color face in this country. Vintage news reports play on a bank of televisions adorning the stage.
Alexander Crespo-Rosario (“Sweeney Todd”), Rudy Cabrera (“Sueno”), and Jeff Ararat (“A Christmas Carol”) play multiple roles. One is a Hispanic high school student having trouble fitting in with his white classmates. There’s a man who wants to own a record store. A Republican candidate for City Council. Political activists who aim to end housing discrimination and advocate for hospitals to hire more bilingual health care workers.
Playwright Orlando Hernandez was inspired by Marta V. Martinez’s “Latino History Of Rhode Island: Nuestras Raices.” Some of the characters are based on real people, while others are composites.
According to the 2020 United States census, more than 182,000 Hispanics live in Rhode Island. At the time, the Census reported more than 21 bodegas, 10 Latin-American restaurants, and other Latin-owned theaters, salons, and shops on Broad Street.
Hernandez also throws in cheeky references to Ocean State locales including Newport Creamery, Rocky Point, and Post Road in Warwick.
This is a well-acted and sharply directed production. Tatyana-Marie Carlo maintains tight pacing, aided tremendously by Patrick Lynch’s simple but convincing set designs and Christina Watanabe’s colorful lighting.
Alcantara displays exquisite comic timing as Dona Rosa, a proud, hard-working business owner with great love for her daughter Lucrecia (Marina Tejada). The rapport Alcantara has with Tavarez results in many emotionally moving moments in the show.
“La Broa (Broad Street)” is a tribute not only to Hispanic immigrants, but to immigrants who come to the United States from all over the world.
The show ends with the ensemble reciting the names of prominent Hispanics in Rhode Island. Many are the descendents of those who came from Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guatemala.
One of the candidates for the American presidency actually believes immigrants are “poisoning the lifeblood” of our country. Even more despicable are the people who remain silent in the face of such horrendous bigotry.
I would suggest they buy some tickets to “La Broa.” They will realize all the people risking their lives to cross our borders are doing it with the intention of having a better type of existence for themselves and their families. They are not hurting anyone and their customs and their culture enhance our society in so many ways. That’s the most crucial lesson this production teaches.
La Broa (Broad Street) runs through February 18 at Trinity Repertory Company. 201 Washington St., Providence. For tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com.
This is a test