Philly-based experimental troupe Pig Iron’s new show is a faux quinceanera — the traditional celebration of a Latina’s coming of age on her 15th birthday. Staged in the social annex of a South Philadelphia church, the audience sits at tables around the edge of the room, covered with pink cloths, sprinkled with tinsel and each with a homemade cake at the center. “Come to My Awesome Fiesta” is at once the celebration itself and the celebration in airquotes. To call it a “deconstruction” would be cruel; to call it a “reconstruction” would miss the nostalgic irony.
With delicacy and charm, director Alex Torra, who participated in quinces growing up in Miami as a Cuban-American teenager, makes us feel we’ve been invited by “La familiar Garcia” to the celebration of their daughter Purificacion Paloma Garcia.
“Purie,” as she’s known, sits on a chair, in a white gown, with a pink blindfold. Chatting around her are her sisters, wearing matching pink gowns, their dates and Purie’s younger brother all in powder-blue tuxedoes with ruffled shirt fronts.
Pig Iron’s polished actors are very convincing as awkward teenagers — some sexy, some with terrible posture, all nervous. The emcee announces, “Get ready for the night of your life,” and the ceremony/party begins: a quinceanera is more ritualized than a sweet sixteen, less religious than a bat mitzvah.
There is hilarious choreography for the group dancing, with glimpses of flirtations followed by jealous glares and absurdly tacky balletic sequences. The traditional rituals begin with “shame toasts” (each family member confesses guilt over some past misdeed — taking Purie’s money out of her shoe at the pool, reading her diary). Then there is the offering of roses to the Virgin, then the ritual of fear and the customary (and touchingly reluctant) relinquishing of the honoree’s favorite doll to her younger sister.
Although the effect of “Awesome Fiesta” might have been merely an anthropological taste of Latin culture for gringos, the production transcends itself. Characters have emerged, family dramas have flared and, by the time you’re eating cake and drinking pink punch, you realize that, somehow, you’ve actually seen a good play.
Having gathered the cast and crew for only one week of rehearsals, and with only two scheduled performances, “Come to My Awesome Fiesta, It’s Going to Be Awesome, Okay?” deserves a longer life and a larger audience.