Modesto Flako Jimenez’s “Oye! For My Dear Brooklyn” is playing at the Abrons Arts Center, in the Henry Street Settlement, from March 15 to March 31st. In this work, Jimenez questions his roots in the Dominican Republic and tries to give answer in the final parts of the play. This is an extraordinary, excellent, wonderful play, and it is very much recommended.
The limits of every one man play are the constraints of having one person. Here Jimenez is nimble, and in fact his wiry frame bounces around the stage with a surge of energy that makes him seem like so many more characters than just himself. Jimenez also used technology as in the assistance of an LCD television, remote controlled through his iPhone. Here, Jimenez played videos of himself as a way to show dialogue between two characters. This use of timing resembles advanced comedy shows by comedian Bo Burnham, because the actor in a one-man show must have accurate precision and patience so that he doesn’t fire the video at the wrong time and interrupt himself.
This play is bilingual, and so these characters and accents when Jimenez goes into character are certainly distinct and discernible because Jimenez speaks Spanish, here. Jimenez is similar to the playwright of “Hamilton,” Lin-Manuel Miranda – although Miranda is Puerto Rican and Jimenez is Dominican – because Jimenez is making connections between popular culture and minority culture, in Jimenez’s case Dominican culture and Black culture integrating with the larger social-pop culture of the United States.
In one violent part of this 1-Act play, Jimenez explains the cocaine trade in Brooklyn. This was an excellent part of the play because romanticizing the cocaine trade requires a certain amount of remove in one’s perspective. This is the reason why listeners can enjoy Rick Ross, who is more likely to talk about the spoils of war instead of the dirty work that goes into the trade. In this case, Jimenez cuts and weighs cocaine, but the process takes time, and it’s awkward because Jimenez breaks the fourth wall, telling the audience he’s going to lie to his customers, and lie to his worker, who amounts to little more than a drug mule. Jimenez starts by calling his girlfriend-mule “dumb dumb” as an affectionate nickname to mitigate the bad mojo. By the end of the scene, however, Jimenez was calling the entire audience dumb-dumb, like an indictment.
In another part of the play, Jimenez spoke about the Black Lives Matter Movement and this was very well done. Jimenez interspersed clips from James Baldwin debating about the black perspective on the Civil Rights Movement; and while Baldwin speaks Jimenez recited the writers’ words in concert. Baldwin was a brilliant Civil Rights Activist and an excellent speaker and writer. His poetic words are then juxtaposed by Jimenez with Black Lives Matter footage of police brutality, and Jimenez made a very tragic point in a very beautiful way here.
A second harrowing part of this play is when Jimenez explored the colonial past of the Dominican Republic. Jimenez read quotes in both Spanish and English of how white people colonized and then terrorized the people of the island. Jimenez uses footage of a white politician speaking in Spanish, and Jimenez used white makeup to smear himself in front of the audience. This has connotations of Bob Dylan, who painted his face white at the height of the Civil Rights movement. Jimenez, who moves, writhes, and bounces energetically underneath bright hot stage lights, was glistening with sweat at this part of the play.
Jimenez never answers these two deeply affecting issues of racism and colonialism. Instead, he offered two actions that make him happy, which in turn made the audience happy. Following the colonialism part of this play, Jimenez re-created a Dominican bar in Brooklyn. In this show, Jiminez took two women from the audience and they all danced the salsa. In a different part, Jimenez physically called his mother in real-time, for a Facetime conversation with himself and the entire audience. This moment of joy when Jimenez’s mother puts her son at ease with care, joy, and laughter, is symbolic, and euphoric, and caused sympathetic feelings in the entire audience.
This is an awesome show. Jimenez is a cool, versatile, and intelligent narrator. He has a jeweler’s eye for his experiences, and he is thus able to pick out his life’s lessons and perspectives that make for good drama and food for thought. This play is an experience, a passion, and a joy, and is certainly not to be missed!
View Program "Listen to the beats / The rhythm of my Bushwick streets." Brooklyn impresario Modesto Flako Jimenez conjures his beloved borough in this bilingual elegy, told through poems, projections, and music. With lyrical brilliance and irreverent play, ¡Oye! For My Dear Brooklyn complicates our perceptions of race, language, and gentrification and calls us to...
The Bushwick Starr and Brooklyn Gypsies Present: Ghetto Hors D'oeuvres Last Night of the Palladium Created By Brooklyn Gypsies Directed by Modesto Flako Jimenez Musical Director & Composer Lateef Dameer December 12 &13, 2014 7:30pm Open doors and Graffiti Exhibition ... Continue reading Posted in Uncategorized The Bushwick Starr and Brooklyn Gypsies Present: OYE!