By Joel Benjamin
Just as the New York City Ballet has its holiday money-maker, Nutcracker, the Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance (BAAD!) has its very own Los Nutcrackers, a Latino take on A Christmas Carol told through the prism of a close-knit gay community. Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo, written and directed by Charles Rice-González, has been a Holiday fixture at BAAD! for ten years. BAAD!, founded by Mr. Rice-González and dancer/choreographer Arthur Aviles, serves the Bronx fostering all creative art forms, giving voice to women, people of color and the LGBT community. They have created a warm, supportive environment in a large, high-ceilinged space, a former church building, complete with art, literature and even food.
Los Nutcrackers focuses on the restless relationship of Carlos (Robert Maisonett) and Gabriel (Yosvany Reyes) as it is about to crack under the weight of misunderstandings, infidelities and indulgence in pot, alcohol and loud music. Carlos hates that Gabe smokes too much pot. Carlos dislikes Gabe’s friends and family and that he can’t depend on him. Gabe hates Carlos’ friends and thinks that Carlos is a snob. Further complicating things is that Gabe has a son from a quick, but doomed, relationship with Elena (Jesse Vega).
They are visited by a mysterious, fabulously dressed Guide (Johnathan Cedano) who transports the couple to the major moments of their relationship: when they met, when they gave into temptations and moments of great love. We see their families and friends and the bars and discos. Unlike Dickens’ ghosts, the Guide cannot tell them what’s in store for them, but we all know that this bird’s-eye view that the Guide has afforded them will nudge them in the right direction.
Written in the language these people speak, including some profanity, Mr. Rice-González paints a very knowing portrait of his community. Perhaps he lays on the latino/gay clichés a bit too heavily, but his cast, which also includes Gabriel Morales, Johary Ramos and guest hostess and Christmas Diva Appolonia Cruz, give full-bodied performances, clearly understanding every nuance of the play. They all move well and work hard, most playing several characters.
Although this season’s Los Nutcrackers is over, BAAD! produces dance and theater events throughout the year. Los Nutcrackers sells out quickly so pounce when the 2014 version is announced.
*Photos: Ricardo Muñiz
Los Nutcrackers: A Christmas Carajo – December 6 – 21, 2013
The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!)
2474 Westchester Ave.
Information and Tickets: 718-918-2110 or www.BronxAcademyofArtsAndDance.org