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‘Notes on Killing’ Review: For These Puerto Ricans, Promises Never Kept

A drag performer, the receptionist suggests that Lolita should prepare for her task by pretending to shoot a drag version of each of the seven board members. Conveniently, they have a prop gun coated in gold glitter in a handy drawer, which she can use in their playlet. The receptionist then provides a fabulous interpretation of each member — dancing and lip syncing, makeup immaculate.

Demented, exuberant and appropriately angry, Vélez Meléndez’s play borrows from European absurdist theater, like the plays of Jarry and Genet, as well as a tradition of Latin American surrealism. As directed by David Mendizábal, who also designed the irrepressible costumes, the show takes place less in an office than in a shimmering theater of the mind. Is any of this real? Does that matter? Shh! They’re playing “Spice Up Your Life.”

“Notes” is queer in its aesthetics, if not exactly in its form. The drag personae emerge tidily, one after the other, and the scenes take on a kind of sameness. But the play challenges Carmela and la Perdida to negotiate realism, fantasy and everything in between, a challenge they giddily accept, occasionally finding genuine poignancy even in the midst of the irrational and bizarre. And there’s delight, of course, in seeing la Perdida emerge in each new get-up. (This is likely a show in which the backstage action — the frantic donning and doffing of wig and makeup and costume — is probably just as exciting as what’s onstage.)

Ultimately, Vélez Meléndez cares less about political consequence than about individual identity. Will Lolita accomplish mass murder? Maybe! Will she push the receptionist toward self-determination? Now there’s a question.

The moral of “Notes,” simply stated by Lolita, is both provocation and invitation: “The journey of decolonization starts with the self!” Few of us can meaningfully affect Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis or its vexed journey toward either statehood or independence. But can we shake it, shake it, shake it, with authenticity? Can we self-govern in our private lives? “Notes” suggests that, with enough glitter, we can.

Notes on Killing Seven Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Board Members
Through June 19 at Soho Repertory Theater, Manhattan; sohorep.org. Running time: 1 hour 35 minutes.

Source: NY Times

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