by Alana Silber
Basic Glitch, the first full-length play written by New York based playwright Stephanie Salazar-Amaro, takes place in a world similar to our own, but with one slight difference: customer service is actually helpful instead of disappointing. Cassi Torres stars as the lead in this absurdist, oddball production, where a woman named Ramona seeks out a customer service center to help her solve the issue of her non-operative reproductive system. She receives assistance from the scatter-brained Magda (Laura Kay) and her unpaid intern Lino (Thomas Valdez), and along the way she runs into her deceased and beloved Tia Leanore (Patricia Perales), who also attempts to help her solve this basic problem. If it sounds outlandish, yet entertaining, that’s because it is.
From the moment Torres entered the room, and throughout the 90 minutes she was on stage her energy was magnetic, if not a bit disconcerting. It was clear that the problem of a botched reproductive system weighed heavily on the mind of her character, and an inner dialogue appeared present as she paced frantically around the stage, explaining the problem to Magda. Although the dialogue seemed simple at times during the first few exchanges between the characters, it was clear that there was a consistent problem edging them both forward. I was also pleasantly surprised when Lino first entered the stage. The spirit and eagerness written into the character was a breath of fresh-air each time he spoke, and right from the start, the audience wants to further understand his role in the play.
While Basic Glitch poses as a comedy, it did not strike me as side-splitting or typically upbeat in its manner. Instead, it seemed there was a large spectrum of human emotion displayed during the performance, with so many twists and turns that at times I didn’t know where I would be led next on the journey. For example, when Ramona first runs into her Tia Leanore and she offers to give her “life force” (which was essentially a metaphor for her spirit and was portrayed in prop form as a colorful doll) to Ramona in order to get her pregnant, I was unsure whether to feel sad at the fact that her Tia was dead or happy for Ramona that she would possibly have a chance to have a baby after all. This sort of dichotomy appeared at numerous points throughout the play, like when Lino cleans up the customer service office for Magda who, instead of feeling happy, is angry and emotional, and kept the audience guessing.
Typically, we correlate customer service with phony attitudes and unhappy hours spent hung up on the phone. However, Basic Glitch allows us the chance to see how we are, in fact, fortunate to have access to answers to our problems. In a talk back with Stephanie Salazar-Amaro after the play concluded, she said that she got her idea based on the fact that “we rely so heavily on customer service and never realize how lucky we are that our issues get solved. I wrote this play wondering what it would be like to take that a step further and solve the one thing customer service can’t quick fix for us: your body.” This idea was one I found fascinating because it is quite creative and authentic. However, there were certain points of the play where I felt this essential theme got lost, due to a variety of intersecting plot lines (Magda and Lino’s problems with each other, Tia Leanore trying to find a purpose in life after death, the input of new technology into the customer service office, etc.). I believe the play would have seemed more complete if some of these other stories got slimmed down.
www.BroadwayBoundTheatreFestival.org Theater Row thru August 25