It’s rare to see this kind of work within the South Florida Theatre community. Work that not only challenges the traditional, but also yells from the void to be seen and heard – and it is new and young companies like True Mirage that are a part of lifting up local voices that usually remain unseen.
This time around it is with the world premiere production of Hoo Hah! by Armando Santana, directed by Daniel Gil. In the middle of an ambiguously ominous post war society, the leading lady in a play by the nations President starts to choke to death after finishing the first act. She starts to choke on the most dangerous thing a person can choke on… a walnut. While the characters are all depending on the success of this production, no one seems to be in much of a rush to help the plays namesake(yes, that means the leading lady is named “HooHa”), each one affected by the stress and tension in anticipation for act 2.
The play opens with a beautiful musical number with original music and lyrics by Thiana Berrick, performed by Sara Jarrell(Hoo Hah) and Randy Garcia(R.T. Waldorf). Jarrell takes on what is considered the most difficult challenge of the play – to slowly and painfully die for almost 90 minutes. With the opening number, this is the only opportunity we get to hear Jarrell’s actual voice as she chokes for the remainder of the play, giving us an excruciating realistically absurd performance of a choking victim. The vocal strain the role has on her voice is something to commend while also raising concern as to the damage it may cause. Hoo Hah is the leading lady of the production within the play, and while Jarrell is never given the chance to speak, it does not take away from the impact the character holds.
Waldorf(Garcia), the leading man opposite Hoo Hah, is your typical cocky wannabe big shot – who thinks he’s more important than he is, holding onto a past career in hopes of reviving it with this performance. Garcia, who was most recently in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, shows you what most people hate about any actor; narcissism at its finest, sprinkled with delusions of grandeur. The comedic delivery and timing with each line as he attacks the characters with his words is something to watch, never letting us down as we savor each moment he struts around the stage.
Mama(Darcy Hernandez-Gil), the mother of Hoo Hah, is the extreme “stage mom” – putting her own wants and needs before her children, while claiming its for them. Hernandez, a New World alum, commands the stage, charging through speech after speech as if she is the one in charge, she is the one who calls the shots. What is most impressive is not what we see on the stage, but the fact that Hernandez took on the role only 24 hours before the opening performance, and yet she does not stumble. Although she might not be the appropriate age for the role, that does not take away from the performance, and in fact doesn’t matter within 30 seconds of her first monologue.
Lil(Milaimys Castellon), Hoo Hahs sister, is the daughter Mama never wanted. We know this not only by the way she talks down to her, but by the literal potato sack she is forced to wear, adding a visual to this already diminished woman. Lil spends the play pleading for her sisters salvation which only ever falls on deaf ears while everyone else is too busy with their own selfish desires. Castellon, another New World alum, is an interesting one to watch as she navigates this very complicated role. A role that is forced to exist under Mama’s foot. Not only does she explore this dynamic with her voice, but every aspect of her performance from head to toe is a testament to her skill.
Tobias Craw(Daniel Gil) is not only the artistic director of the company putting on the play within the play, but he is also the director of said production – which is funny considering that Gil(yes another New World Alum) is literally both the artistic director and director of Hoo Hah, very meta – and everything depends on this play going perfectly. He enters the space with a haircut and mustache that makes you question not only what kind of man he is, but what kind of world we are in that can see this appearance as any kind of norm. Gil entertains with his overdramatic portrayal of a caricature of the typical director role – while Gil entertains with his overdramatic portrayal of a caricature of the typical director role – while also directing those around him, which can’t be easy with a cast of 7 – but he does so with ease.
There is one role that doesn’t have much stage time, but Nick Valdes(New World Alum) – who was most recently in ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ – leans into the Stagehand character.
Now while the play might feel repetitive at times with every character commenting on the choking Hoo Hah, the jokes about the name Hoo Hah, and the constant bickering and pontificating around the world we know very little about – there is a moment when it takes flight and completely disrupts the status quo, and that is when Jacob Winger(Ricky J. Martinez) enters. President Jacob Winger is not only the writer of the play the characters are all striving to finish, but he is the sole leader of what feels like a lawless and terrifying world. His entrance is one to remember, and one that I cannot mention as it might ruin the lasting impact it earns. Martinez, an award winning playwright/director/actor with over 30 years of work under his belt, chews up every second he has on the stage. Without fail he seamlessly balances charm and terror, never letting you forget who is in charge while also making you want to be his best friend. Whether he means to or not, Martinez channels what some might consider a John Malkovich type energy, each syllable rolling off the tongue in a way that captivates you along with his slow but calculated movements about the space. This role is written for him, and he doesn’t let you forget it – making everything beforehand well worth the wait.
Hoo Hah! might still benefit from developmental work, but True Mirage lets us know that Santana is a new and young voice to watch – who also happens to be a New World alum… yes, that is a lot of New World alums.
This production runs about 90 minutes without intermission at the Main Street Players location – which is a small but mighty space that can bring any show to life under the right direction and designer. The director and company make the best use of the stage under the limitations that might make others stumble if given the chance, creating a dilapidated dressing room as this plays home.
Although it is not without its flaws, it is still a show that will entertain, surprise, and maybe even open some eyes if you look hard enough. It comments on the industry and its toxicity along with the world that validates those kinds of choices and decisions that lead to those kind of harmful circumstances – it might not be clear from beginning to end that this is the goal, but it is in there.
With only one weekend left, Hoo Hah! is a show you won’t want to miss because the truth is, there aren’t many companies willing to produce new local work within South Florida. The only way the work can get better, is if the community supports and lifts it up, that is how the work moves forward, grows, and evolves.
Don’t miss out this weekend with True Mirage as this show comes to a close this Sunday at 3pm. Get your tickets today at the link below.