Review: "Birthday in the Bronx" Charts a Rocky Road
Birthday in the Bronx
Written by Paul Hufker
Directed by Michaela Escarcega
Presented by and at The Tank
312 W. 36th. St., 1st Floor, Manhattan, NYC
February 20-March 18, 2020
|Suzelle Palacios. Photo by Mari Uchida|
Raquel's nickname, Rocky, is tied up in her athletic performance as her school's star field hockey player, a role that she looks to as her only way out of her neighborhood: Rocky wants to be a politician, but, as she says, no one sends scouts to look for future political figures. When one such scout does in fact offer Rocky an athletic scholarship to a wealthy, predominantly white high school, she accepts. She also shortly accepts a symbolically weighted new, white field hockey stick. Complications arise at her new school over the course of her transition, but Rocky also faces resistance from her mother (Milagros Colón), who speaks almost exclusively Spanish (as is the case with many children of immigrants, Rocky's own Spanish is not very good), and from her own guilty feeling that ending up anywhere but the Bronx would constitute a betrayal of the mother who raised her alone.
|Sigrid Wise and Suzelle Palacios. Photo by Mari Uchida|
The racist coach (how he talks about and to Rocky highlights how she is seen only in terms of her body and gestures to the experiences of many athletes of color of either gender) wants her to embrace "venom," and the doctor advises using her cast as a club. While turning a wound into a weapon might seem like good advice, it runs counter to the greater embrace of empathy towards which the play as a whole bends. Straddling the personal, social, and meta and outward, and never going next quite where one expects, Birthday in the Bronx gives audiences a lot to unwrap.
-John R. Ziegler and Leah Richards