Paola Lázaro has her heart in the right place: the slums of Old San Juan in her native Puerto Rico. This is a side of the island that tourists rarely see, and like many dramatists before her—August Wilson comes to mind—she knows that the everyday struggles of the underprivileged can be imbued with poetry and epic emotion. Unfortunately, the dozen downtrodden characters in Lázaro’s debut play, Tell Hector I Miss Him, are more likely to try your patience than inspire your empathy.
This is no fault of the production’s capable actors, nearly all Latino, who bring authenticity to somewhat stereotypically written roles as addicts, abusers, adolescents and amantes. Some of their intertwined stories are engaging, such as one in which a sick schoolgirl (Yadira Guevara-Prip) crushes on the local sexpot (Orange is the New Black’s Dascha Polanco); others are tedious, like the one about a lost gringa (Talene Monahon) who spends most of the play meowing. Too many of Lázaro’s neofolktales fall into the second category, and although she has reportedly based some characters on her own family members, there’s a sameness to the way they express themselves. As a young Puerto Rican woman, Lázaro offers a voice and perspective too rarely seen onstage. Maybe next time she’ll have a hit instead of this Miss.
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