There are so many plays about life in New York, but most of them seem to be about Manhattan or Brooklyn. Well, Theatre 167 is giving us a glimpse into the world of Queens in their latest play I Like to Be Here: Jackson Heights Revisited, or, This is a Mango where we spend a night with 21 characters in Jackson Heights. New York is the ultimate melting pot (although you’d never know it if you only saw Broadway shows), and I Like to Be Here brilliantly reflects the diversity and blending of lives in this city.
This is Theatre 167’s 4th production exploring the Jackson Heights community following
167 Tongues, You Are Now the Owner of This Suitcase, and Jackson Heights 3AM. Like their previous 3 productions, I Like to Be Here was developed with the collaboration of several different playwrights: Jenny Lyn Bader, J.Stephen Brantley, Ed Cardona Jr., Les Hunter, Tom Miller, Melisa Tien, and Joy Tomasko. The scenes transition seamlessly through vignettes of the characters as if the telescope peeping on their lives is pulling in and out of focus on different areas in Jackson Heights. The modest, multifunctional set design, by Todd Flaherty (who also plays Sean, the Caucasian nephew trying to sell his aunt’s property and look for her dog) complimented the constant change of locales executed by the cast with a fluidity that reflected the bustle of the city. The music in the show represents the multicultural ambiance of the piece with the inclusion of latin beats (i.e. Marc Anthony/Hector Lavoe, and Juanes) and Bollywood music. I Like to Be Here certainly has many flavors that will entice the multicultural and multilingual palate.
Reasons to go:
1. Nowhere else in this city will you be able to see characters from India, Russia, Mexico, South Asia, South America, and the US on stage together and speaking their own languages. Even if you don’t always know what is being said specifically, the sentiment is always clear.
2. It’s like a stage version of the 2005 Oscar winning film Crash with considerably more comedic scenes and colorful characters. There is a great balance of high drama, hilarity, and ambiguity. All of the characters are connected in someway, and you slowly discover those connections throughout the play
3. J. Stephen Brantley. Not only is he one of the playwrights for the piece, but he plays two starkly contrasted characters to perfection. His performance is so electric on stage that you miss him when he is gone. He has incredible energy and takes such great risks on stage. First you see him as Jim, a shy, Long Island cop in the closet who escaped to Jackson Heights for the weekend to fulfill his on-the-down-low desires and encounters the adorably sassy Pablo (Mauricio Pita) at a gay bar. We also see Brantley as crazy, meth-head Leo, sporting nothing but a track suit jacket, a hat, a jockstrap, and a bandage on his bloody hand following his ill-fated date with officer Jim. Leo spouts some of the most racially and socially offensive lines of the play (apart from Office Eddie played by Michael Markham), but despite his sporadic behavior and filthy mouth he’s pretty harmless (and almost endearing). Leo is all over the place, you never know what he’s going to do or say next. If anything, it is definitely worth seeing the show to watch Brantley on stage.
4. The beauty of overcoming obstacles for love is never so sweet as when language-barriers come into play. Sweet-faced car service driver Devaj (Imran Sheikh) has been watching the pretty, Mexican baker Adela (Lisann Valentin) work across the street. Little does he know that Adela has been watching him too. She has been trying to learn English so she can speak to him, while Devaj has been trying to figure out how to communicate his love for her. You’ll have to come see the play to find out what happens when the two finally meet!
5. The hilarious West Indian car service scenes featuring Lipica Shah and Indika Senanayake. The chemistry between those two ladies is infectious to watch. I think they deserve their own play (or film).
6. “How to make, and serve, a Jackson Heights Dosa,” as told by Salim (Azhar Khan).
7. It is quintessential #diversityonstage
Themes: Jackson Heights, Queens, Romance, Immigration, Gentrification, Gender/Coming Out, Diversity
Advisory: Strong Language, mild sexual content, and a portion of the dialogue is not in English (and there are no subtitles)
1. Prepare your ear for heavy accents. For some of the actors, it may take some time to adjust to understanding their dialect. Especially in the beginning.
2. Seating is general admission, so get there early to get a good seat!
When: Wednesday- Saturday @ 8pm , Sunday @ 2pm and 7pm now through September 27th
Price: $18 General, $16 Student/Seniors