I wish cockroaches killed themselves, but they don't, and anyway that has little to do with a great little one-act I saw last summer (prompting my first whiny comment from someone I clearly offended, and the first time a commenter got my back). A Suicide Note from a Cockroach follows a beat-down bug, played by director and creator CarlosAlexis Cruz, in a low-income housing project of New York City. His wives—seven in all—keep dying on him, but not before emasculating him, cheating him, and/or breaking his heart in some way. Cockroach begins an expanded run this week, fueled by a grant from the Regional Arts and Culture Council. (Opens Thursday, March 18th at 8pm, $10; Imago Theatre, 17 SE 8th. See schedule here)
The cockroach-based narrative is a pretty head-on metaphor for the struggles and living conditions of poor immigrants. Like the despised bugs, they often face expulsion, overcrowding, and oppositional, Raid-ready authority. When Cruz, dressed in a work-worn jumpsuit, gets heated and flies into quick-fire Spanish, the metaphor fades almost completely. But his cockroach-y body language (scuttling, jumping, tumbling) and cockroach chorus (a trio of acrobats echoing the plot in movements) hold the second dimension of the story. Here's a rehearsal video of said chorus practicing their moves a couple weeks ago.
“I like theater that transcends words," says Cruz. "It’s not a talking show at all...We use a lot of gibberish.” Although the RACC contribution gave Cruz the option to buy real cockroach costumes, he stuck with the original jumpsuits. He wants the cockroachiness to come in through the "circus vocabulary" rather than a literal translation.
The two fantastic performers who alternated playing Cruz’s wives last time around (his real wife, Mayra Acevedo, and Sarah Farrell) are set to revive their roles, mixing humor, physicality, and a little bit of crazy. The expanded Cockroach (wow, that's a nasty phrase) also brings a couple new characters and “more air,” both literally and figuratively. There's a new wife, played (in drag) by Daniel Moreno, allowing for more lifts and tosses with Cruz—Moreno will also play the new character of Cruz's best friend. Although this iteration is about twenty minutes longer, Cruz is keen on maintaining the quickfire rhythm. As before, expect a live band, rapid Spanglish and a human flea circus in the background.
If all goes according to plan, Cruz will tour with the production next season, stopping in San Francisco and, the ultimate goal, New York City, where it all began.