Immigrant Led Astray in His New Home‘Probation,’ by Yoshvani Medina, in Spanish
By ANDY WEBSTER
Published: July 24, 2012
The playwright and director Yoshvani Medina was born in Cuba, and judging from “Probation,” his engaging work presented by Repertorio Español at the Gramercy Arts Theater, he is consumed with ambivalence about that country. Throughout the play, essentially a dialectic between pro-Cuban and pro-American sentiments, Mr. Medina resists taking sides, wisely preferring to explore gray areas in each perspective.
A prologue presents an unspecified but recent military skirmish in Cuba: A dying Fredo (Sandor Juan) extracts a promise from Pancho (Alfonso Rey) that he will take care of Fredo’s son, Freddy. A year later Pancho is in Miami, and Freddy (also Mr. Juan) and his pregnant wife, Yenny (Hannia Guillén), arrive to start a new life. Pancho sets up Freddy at a shady clinic engaged in Medicaid fraud; the wry, skeptical Yenny seeks employment as a standup comic.
Freddy knows Pancho’s offer is suspect, but the money proves too tempting, and before long he has a house, two cars and the feds on his trail. When the authorities close in, he eyes a return to Cuba, but Pancho, the godfather to his son, tries to dissuade him. (“In Cuba, people have nothing,” he says. “Everything belongs to the government,” which prompts Freddy to retort, “And everything here belongs to the banks.”) Yenny, now a journalist and blogger, has ideas of her own.
The production is in Spanish, which a new, unobtrusive captioning system translates, leaving non-Spanish speakers to savor Mr. Medina’s assured direction and the appealing cast. (Jorge Noa and Pedro Balmaseda’s stark, malleable set keeps the focus squarely on the actors.)
Freddy, who is earnest but seducible, is eclipsed by the cynical Pancho, whose gruff observations can be hilarious, though their more heated exchanges verge on the didactic. Ms. Guillén’s character offers vital leavening, with monologues about sex and the lessons she’s learned in America; her blog is called I Live in Miami (and I Know Its Entrails). Unseen is Freddy and Yenny’s baby, Fred, part of a future generation fated to inherit the impasse between countries so close and yet so very far apart.
“Probation” continues through Sept. 27 at the Gramercy Arts Theater, 138 East 27th Street, Manhattan; (212) 225-9999, repertorio.org/probation.
Revisit the Sound of Frank Sinatra with My Sinatra's Cary Hoffman
By Broadway.com Staff August 15, 2011 - 5:28PM
Frank Sinatra has one of the most distinguishable voices in music history, and now audiences are getting to hear it off-Broadway... sort of. Audiences are learning that performer Cary Hoffman has a magnificent talent for channeling the legendary singer. In his solo show My Sinatra, Hoffman tells theatergoers about his lifelong obsession with Ol' Blue Eyes as he performs many of Sinatra's classic hits. Broadway.com met up with Hoffman to talk about his special connection with the Chairman of the Board, and why Sinatra impersonators can't compare to his performance. Take a look below!
Ray Romano Producer Offers One-man Show
Kevin Johnston, New York Local Music Examiner
July 4, 2011
What do you do after you've become the Executive Producer of "Men of a Certain Age," starring Ray Romano? Oh, and along the way, you've discovered Luther Vandross, managed Zach Galifinakis, and written hit songs. What do you do after you've done all that? Why you put on a one-man show about Frank Sinatra, of course.
That is just what Cary Hoffman has done. This accomplished writer, producer, songwriter and manager has mounted a tribute to Frank Sinatra, now playing at the Midtown Theater in New York City, that includes not only Hoffman's remarkable Sinatra-esque vocal stylings, but a running dialogue about his obsession with Sinatra since Hoffman was a boy.
Hoffman talks the audience through his childhood and adolescence, when he spent most of his time longing to be Frank Sinatra. He practiced incessantly in his room, took some beginning gigs in the Catskills, and ran headlong into rock n' roll music. Much like the real Frank Sinatra, Hoffman just didn't get it.
As he recalls his ambitions and frustrations, he punctuates the monologue with Sinatra songs, which he sings with near-perfect Sinatra phrasing and vocal tones. He is not a Sinatra impersonator; he's a Sinatra interpreter. The show does not so much recreate his idol. It's a tribute.
His tribute led to a PBS special, and draws audiences in New York, as well as art centers around the world.
There are times during the show when Hoffman convinces the audience he was more than a little off-center as a child, and his Sinatra obsession begins to seem like a disorder that developed as Hoffman tried to escape the pain of a screaming mother and the deaths of his father and step father.
But slowly Hoffman redeems himself with his account of how he became his own man (leaving out all of his remarkable accomplishments), and his ambitions to be a star seem to come to fruition right there on the stage. By the end of the show, Hoffman has become fully himself, and he fills the stage not with Sinatra, but with Hoffman.
And the trip through Sinatra's great songs is the icing on the cake.
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