“Platanos and collard greens go together like macaroni and chicken wings…” best sums up the entertainment on campus last Wednesday evening. Considered “a modern day West Side Story” by the New York Times, “Platanos Y Collard Greens” is an off-Broadway hit that made its way to Siena. The forbidden love between a Latina college student and her black boyfriend had the crowd bouncing back and forth between an uproar of laughter and a silence of solemness. Currently in its ninth year of production, the show focuses on the tensions that are apparent between the black and Latino communities. A practically full house came out to share in the entertainment focusing on the current political and social issues.
On Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, the theatrical group brought their talents to the Beaudoin Theatre to share. Written by David Lamb, the script used a poetic dialogue to engage to the crowd throughout the night. Daniel Hickman acted as the leading man, Freeman, a black college student who is romantically involved with Zahaira Curiel’s character, Angelita. As a Latina, Angelita’s mother deeply disapproves of her daughter’s cross-cultural relationship with Freeman. The play follows the characters through the troubles that they face crossing cultural barriers. It is ultimately a hysterical Romeo and Juliet where no one dies.
Beyond the star-crossed lovers’ story, the show emphasized prejudices unique to every culture. Angelita performs a moving monologue on the over-sexualization of Latinas in popular culture. A supporting character, Malady, played by Iman Freeman-Artwell, also gives a monologue that was without a doubt a fan favorite. “The darker the berry the sweeter the juice,” a popular hip-hop lyric, was recited by the audience as soon as Malady began to utter it. In her empowering speech on the skin tone of African-American women, she focused on society’s preference of lighter-skin women compared to darker-skin women. Malady spoke on the beauty that lies within the darker complexions that is too often ignored.
OK, the obnoxious and goofy, yet oddly insightful, sidekick of Freeman provided the majority of the comedic relief and was portrayed by Preston Taylor. OK spends his time supporting his friend, rapping, and chasing the affection of Angelita’s best friend. The two have an interesting relationship, switching between her rejection of OK’s advances and the two working together to make music. Both characters represent a strong support system that is a prevalent theme in the production.
When Freeman’s father and Angelita’s mother unknowingly meet each other during her counseling session with him, the crowd gets a lesson in cultural history. Pops, played by Robert Williams, stresses the fact that black Americans and Latino Americans often have similar heritage and ancestors. He also reminds us that these groups have been forced into neighborhoods together for a large part of American history, thus their cultures often intertwine. He tries to reason with Angelita’s mother, Samana, played by Marlene Villafane, but she cannot overcome her prejudices towards her daughter’s boyfriend.
In an effort to not ruin the ending, I will simply say that “Platanos y Collard Greens” is the type of production that leaves the viewer feeling warm inside while also more educated than when they arrived. To break down serious topics in a way that draws in the audience rather than forcing them to shy away from the issues is what is so truly unique about this play. The showing was made possible by Siena’s Damietta Cross-Cultural Center, Black and Latino Student Union, Unificando Nuestra America, Diversity Action Committee, Creative Arts Department and Multicultural Studies Minor. Siena will also be hosting another play focusing on culture, “They Call Me Q ,” on Nov. 7, 2018 in the SSU. Anyone interested in this event can find further information on the Saints Connect website.