Calling Puerto Rico for the Island and to Hope – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

In recent weeks the tragic earthquake devastating Syria and Turkey, claiming 46,000 precious lives and counting, only serves to remind us of the powers of Mother Nature and the terrible toll Climate Change and Global Warming can have on our lives. We are often powerless to stop these effects as they destroy homes, schools, hospitals and lives and rob us of our basic needs for shelter, water, food, and our very existence. Pa’lante Theater Company and playwright Juan Ramirez Jr. want to present a powerful reminder of nature’s wrath with the world premiere of “Calling Puerto Rico for the Island and to Hope” at Seven Angels Theatre in Waterbury the weekend of February 24-26.

Pa’lante Theater Company is Connecticut’s first and only Afro-Latine Black Box Theater Company and its artistic director and founder Nelson Rafael Feliciano-Roman is impassioned about his quest to showcase productions that explore his heritage and further our understanding of his culture. This inaugural offering does all that and more.

Come meet an amateur ham radio operator Joel, a sincere but conflicted Rabel Bueno, who is emotionally paralyzed and unable to leave the sanctuary of his apartment because of a personal trauma. When he hears the devastating news that Hurricane Maria may be headed straight for Puerto Rico, his homeland, with alarming consequences, he feels a responsibility to help. To allay his fears, he consults an old friend Debra, a wise and knowledgable astronaut currently at the international space station high above earth for the current weather reports and the path the hurricane may be taking. Betzabeth Gonzalez’s Debra is calming and supportive as she feeds him the facts about what may be happening in mere minutes to the land of his birth.

Not so comforting, but decidedly flirtatious, is his landlord Melosa, brought to vivacious life by Fior Rodriguez, who deals with life and death on a daily basis as a trauma nurse and wants to help Joel with his emotional troubles as well as his current fears about Puerto Rico. Since he is incapable of leaving his apartment, Melosa volunteers to travel there to find how Joel’s grandfather Anibal is faring. Joel blames his grandfather for a “curse” he feels the family has and is finally reaching out across the miles to reconnect. Jeffrey M. Rossman’s Anibel is torn between keeping his dialysis machine or his generator going as the storm gets ever closer. The arrival of his neighbor Rolan, an industrious Cameron Hudson, helps him cope.

As the angry storm whips through the sky, Joel frantically tries to save his grandfather, encourage Melosa to find him among the devastation in the Caribbean, take some comfort in Debra’s accurate forecasting and discover his own courage to overcome his personal demons. Hold on tight as you get caught in the eye of the storm as the winds howl and the waters rise. The return of the croaking of the island frogs, the coqui, will signal the return of hope for the land.

For tickets ($20), call Seven Angels Theatre, 1 Plank Road, Waterbury at 203-757-4676 or online at Performances are Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Come weather the hurricane with Joel and his immediate family as they struggle to survive the oncoming onslaught of emotion and destruction.