Ladies and gentlemen, damas y caballeros, if you’d like to experience a play quite unlike any other, look no further than Queens of the Night/Reinas de la Noche, playing in the Thalia Spanish Theatre until Feb. 25.
Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the show, other than the interactive second act where the play suddenly becomes a drag show, was the use of Spanish and English — or as some call it, Spanglish.
The mix of the two languages, however, wasn’t an intentional aspect of the play. Txemi Parra, the writer of Queens of the Night/Reinas de la Noche, said the bilingual theme happened organically among the cast and crew.
“I wrote it in Spanish and I wrote that some characters spoke Spanglish, but not all,” Parra said. “But some of the actors said ‘this is a good idea,’ and it would be great to open it to more audiences.”
Parra said he drew his inspiration for the production from New York.
“Living here in New York, I’ve learned a lot about the Spanish language,” he said.
The exuberant actors complemented their impeccable comedic timing with a dash of Spanish phrases and cultural references throughout their performances. The music and costumes were so vibrant that viewers could overlook the very serious undertones of the play if they weren’t paying attention.
Some of the actors and actresses had never performed in a play before, according to Soledad Lopez, who starred as the main character, Lupe, and is the managing director of the Thalia Spanish Theatre.
“We wanted to do a type of play where they would be able to demonstrate their talents because, realistically, sometimes they just work in clubs, not in a theatre where people come to sit down and watch them,” Lopez said.
The not-so-subtle jabs at the current president of the United States, some of which reference his comments about Mexican immigrants, drew great laughs from the audience as well.
Other subjects of the play — including abusive relationships, the hardships of adopting children when one is transgender and acceptance of who one truly is — gave it an authenticity that kept the audience responsive in the already intimate setting of the Thalia.
The director, William Lopera, stressed that the underlying intention of the play is to raise awareness about the prejudices members of the LGBTQ community still face.
“There is a need to create consciousness and to promote tolerance without making it dramatic,” Lopera said. “This is a fun way to give that information and people will realize how fun and wonderful diversity is.”
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Thalia Spanish Theatre, the executive director of the theatre, Angel Gil Orrios, said that they strive to bring important messages to their audience.
“We’ve always been interested in promoting social justice, in doing things and themes that are really contemporary and important for the community,” Orrios said. “We always wanted to do an LGBTQ musical because we knew that many artists that have worked with us in the past were gay and were very proud of it.”
During the Valentine’s Day performance of Queens of the Night/Reinas de la Noche, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and his partner went to show their support for the play. At the end of the show, he was invited to the stage where he praised the story and the Thalia.
“I am so proud to represent this theater in my district and I’m so proud that this was brought to Sunnyside,” Van Bramer said. “I fell in love with every single person on this stage for many reasons... All of you inspire me, all of you are so beautiful in every single way. This was a great way to spend Valentine’s Day. Thank you all so much, muchisimas gracias.”