"A Suicide Note from a Cockroach" begins with a cockroach invasion. A half-dozen trained acrobats scuttle around the stage and up into the seats. An actor in workman's uniform jumps on the lap of an older man sitting in front of me, mumbles a few non-words in a Spanish accent, and keeps going. Their procession leads back to the stage for a show of flea circus-esque gymnastics, accompanied by horn- and drum-driven music. My attention has been snatched and I won't have it back for an hour. This is one of the liveliest, most original, imaginative, and hilarious shows I've seen in a long time.
Per writer/director/star Carlos Alexis Cruz's own description of the show, "A Suicide Note from a Cockroach" is about Pedro, a cockroach in the low-income housing projects of New York City, who "has being married six times and all his wives has being killed." English is not Cruz's strength, but he uses this—wisely, inventively—to his advantage. Exclamations, gibberish, contortions, and other masterful body language do the lion's share of the "telling" here. When he and one of his doomed wives have sex, it's a choreographed tumbling routine that's an eye-catching and clever satire of a physical relationship.
Cruz works his ass off as the show's vigorous narrator and engine. Mayra Acevedo (Cruz's actual wife) and Sarah Farrell make up the rest of the scripted players, alternating in the roles of wives one through six. Acevedo is spectacular as the kleptomaniac, hooker, and drill sergeant wives. Her voice, posture, and movements merge to create unique characters that are exaggerated and funny, not grating or gimmicky.
Farrell's portrayal of a green card-digging German wife is memorable, though her other spousal iterations are not as distinct from her first character as Acevedo's. Farrell does offer one of the best examples of how this play communicates, though: When she gets her citizenship she simply beats her chest and says, "Sauerkraut! Sauerkraut! Sauerkraut!" I know exactly what she means.
"A Suicide Note from a Cockroach" was made possible by a fellowship from Imago Theatre, which warms my heart just a little bit. Unfortunately, to see it you'll have to sit through another one-act, "Breaching," about two men stuck in limbo in the belly of a whale. The two plays lie on opposite ends of the spectrum of physical theater: "Breaching" tries to tell the viewer everything. It's worth watching this relatively short theater exercise though, to get the second half. Or you can just crawl in late.