Leyendas, a play based on Central American legends, is a unique piece of drama that entertains as well as frightens.
Mario Corrales, co-director of the Jersey City-based Cuchipinoy Productions, came up with the idea, and with the help of two translators and co-writer, Rodney Reyes, adapted the legends into English and presented the play at The Second Annual Spotlight On Halloween Festival at the Cashama Theater on 42nd Street in New York City.
The play includes several stories, filled with superstitions and folklore. Some of the legends are just creepy, and some are more sinister. All the stories are brought together by the narrative of Daniel Pagan, who was an interesting, well-suited pick for narrator. He is tall and slim, and wanders the theater on stilts, nearly touching the ceiling. He keeps the audience rapt with his unsettling stare, and his voice is soft, but fitting. It makes him even more eerie than he already appears.
The play employs several actors, who fill different roles for each legend, and musicians. Santi Villegas and Manual Carames provide an original score of keyboard, guitar and drum music for Leyendas. The music is Spanish-infused and lends itself to the superstitions of the stories. Villegas also read a poem about "La Cegua," an audience favorite.
"La Cegua" is the story of a being that punishes the men whom she finds wandering home alone in the wee hours after a night of carousing and drinking. "La Cegua" is played by Yesenia Beutel, a small woman at 5'4", but someone you would not want to run into in the middle of the night after seeing her performance. For a little person, she certainly has a big roar.
Orlando Velez plays "Felipe," the man caught by "La Cegua." Velez is good in this role, presenting himself as a jerk, but somehow securing the audience's pity.
"El Cadejos" is a story of a priest punished for turning his parishioners against God. Reyes, as "El Cadejos," takes on the hard part of the monster that the priest has become. His enthusiasm for the part makes it all the more entertaining. Patrick Annelli, as "Jose," counters Reyes' abrasive attacks with convincing whimpering and fright. Other legends in Leyendas include that of a greedy priest and a man who sells his soul to "El Diablo."
Theatersgoers never really know what they are getting into when they attend off-Broadway shows, but if you ever see a sign for a Cuchipinoy Production, try it out. They really know how to put on an excellent performance.
Future Cuchipinoy Productions projects include a collaboration with _gaia Studios in Hoboken: Angel on My Shoulder, which is part of the Nine Muses reading series, which presents work for and about women. The reading will be presented on Dec. 19 at _gaia Studio located at 66 Willow Ave.
For more information on Cuchipinoy Productions visit www.cuchipinoy.com. q