It is easily is one of the most creative, original and perceptively modern plays to debut — not just in Key West, but anywhere. Now at The Studios of Key West, the premiere performances of “Alligator Alley,” a contemporary play by local playwright Michael Marrero, are up and running. The stage is set between Homestead’s Market Village and Florida City’s Walmart, and anyone who has been in Florida City’s Walmart knows what that means. The script is a bright, flickering fluorescent light shining on characters that are both cringingly real and honestly hilarious. Marrero and director Zachary Fine have knocked it out the park with this one, including three talented actors who elevate the stage into 90 minutes of pure entertainment and thoughtful commentary about American society as seen through a Floridian lens.
The play follows Mayar, a young Muslim who wears a hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf, played by an exquisite Nayem Cardenas-Lopez. She is an immigrant fish-out-of-water in the land of rednecks, Cubans and Mexicans. Setting the tone, Mayar starts with: “All reality is subjective. … Everyone is trying to escape, but no one ever does.” Audiences follow the evolution of her friendship with Becca, played by an incredibly versatile actress Jordan Puhala. A trailer-trash juvie with a wild side, Becca is a typical unfiltered local: “I ain’t prejudiced, but when I was young, it was just us and the Indians.” When the two get together, it’s as funny and combustible as pop rocks.
How do they escape from the poverty and racism they suffer in God-fearing “Make America Great Again” country of South Florida? They go to Walmart to make fun of people. And every American knows: what happens in Walmart never stays in Walmart.
The play is refreshingly youthful and optimistic. Following great modern comedies like “My Name is Earl,” “Raising Hope” and “Super Troopers,” Marrero goes for the extreme with his characters, pinpointing their eccentricities and highlighting their absurdities. New York City-based actors Cardenas-Lopez and Puhala, joined by Julio Trinidad, deliver numerous characters with ease and acting savant that is a delight to watch. Trinidad’s timing and facial expressions alone captivate audiences.
By shining a magnifying glass on South Florida, Marrero has created a theatrical petri dish filled with multiple personalities and stereotypes that make up the modern American world. The play doesn’t shy away from the bigotry, social injustice, commercialism, crude violence and many “phobias” that plague society. Fortunately, audiences can swallow the pill because Marrero makes it taste like candy: sweet with humor, insight and hope.
At The Studios of Key West March 5-16
Tickets at the box office at 533 Eaton Street, or by calling 305-296-0458, or visiting tskw.org.