Something different is drawing crowds to the famed Thalia Spanish Theatre in Sunnyside these days, and it’s called “No Problemo Amigo.”
Billed as a total theater comic experience, the 90-minute intermissionless multi media show, written by 30-year-old Colombian native Jaime Espinal, incorporates music, dance, comedy and, most effectively, screen projections. All the elements somehow come together to make an entertaining and sometimes biting statement about the plight of immigrants in this country.
“The play has a fresh and humorous approach to immigration,” said Angel Gil Orrios, the driving force behind the theater since 2000.
Espinal takes “a serious topic and presents it from a young perspective with humor, having fun and making us think. For us Hispanics, we know what it is to be an immigrant. Many Americans don’t know. The play is based on his own experiences,” said Gil Orrios.
He is especially proud of the theater’s brand-new supertitle system, which allows for words to be projected on a translucent screen that envelops the entire playing area.
“The play has the look of a comic book,” he said. “The way we use supertitles is original, like bubbles in comic books. The screen makes it possible to be three-dimensional.”
The new projection system, for which Gil Orrios acknowledges the financial support of Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, comes at a time when the Thalia, like most arts organizations nowadays, has suffered budgetary cutbacks.
According to Gil Orrios, several of the theater’s established programs have been downsized. Separate theater workshops for nurturing talented young adults and children have been cut in half and the Thalia’s free outdoor summer festival, scheduled this year for June 5 and 12, has also been shortened.
“Public funding is so terrible. We like to serve our community, but we cannot afford to pay the artists,” said Gil Orrios, lamenting that the theater could not afford as many shows as in previous summers.
The outdoor performances, which are free and open to the public, will take place on the next two Sundays at Thomson Hill Park/Noonan Playground. The June 5 show features the Mestizo Dance Company, and includes Colombian music and dance; the June 12 show is entitled “Zarzuelas & Romantic Songs,” featuring arias and duets from the most famous Spanish operettas and popular romantic songs.
“We present a little appetizer of what our shows are like,” Gil Orrios said.
The borough’s Latino population, now estimated at over 1 million, comprises half of the Thalia’s audience. The other 50 percent is made up of a diverse mix of ethnicities that typify the borough. And many members of Thalia audiences come from as far away as New Jersey.
As the only bilingual Spanish theater in Queens, the Thalia, now in its 34th season, tries to entice audiences through its varied programs and low ticket prices.
“We cannot raise our ticket prices. Our audience can’t afford more,” said Gil Orrios. Even if a show sells out in the 80-seat space, the theater just breaks even. Ticket sales alone cannot support general operating expenses.
Performances at the theater for each attraction have also been scaled back, down to three from the typical seven.
“Saturday matinees were very important for the senior citizens, but we cannot afford them,” Gil Orrios said.
“No Problemo Amigo,” which runs weekends through June 19, is being given its world premiere at the Thalia. Featuring live music and a relatively small cast playing multiple roles, the show stars its author in the role of a meek office clerk with a concealed identity as a superhero.
Topical references in the show, which is mostly in English, range from Ricky Martin and Shakira to Marilyn Monroe and the musical, “Annie.”
Humorous takes on Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Men In Black,” and student exchange programs are also featured prominently. The show is guaranteed to appeal to a wide range of adult audiences. The free outdoor programs appeal to all ages.
‘No Problemo Amigo ’
When: Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m. through June 19
Where: Thalia Spanish Theatre, 47-17 Greenpoint Ave., Sunnyside
Tickets: $25; $22 for seniors and students
When: June 5 and June 12 at 1 p.m.
Where: Thomson Hill Park/Noonan Playground on Greenpoint Avenue between 42nd and 43rd streets