The Mischievous Juan Bobo” (“Los Titingos de Juan Bobo”), a whimsical allegory adapted from Puerto Rican folklore by Axel Cintron, opened the 33rd annual tour of the adventurous Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in collaboration with Teatro Circulo. Performed in Spanish — English synopsis pro-vided — the tale is vividly expressed by a versatile cast who offer exaggerated but winningly animated performances.
On a bare platform backed by a green leafy scrim, the actors sing, dance and parade with boundless energy. Set in colonial Puerto Rico in the early 19th century, the narrative follows the misadventures of Juan Bobo (Roberto Gorbea), a rather foolish and gullible youth who is the hero of many Puerto Rican folk tales.
Young Juan literally frightens his inebriated father to death in an attempt to cure a chronic case of hiccups. Juan’s further trials include some ill-advised matchmaking with a mischievous village potato thief and the delicate and giddy farmer’s daughter. Spirit and simplicity prevail, making narrative and action accessible to young and old, and even non-Hispanic viewers.
Vivid characterizations are drawn by Gorbea as the hapless hero, Tamaris Canals as a foxy vixen — amusingly coifed in Shirley Temple curls — and Wanda Arriaga as the determined heroine whose flirtatious smile is all the more goofy due to the gaping absence of a front tooth.
The valiant troupe of performers gallantly overcame the intrusive sounds of street traffic, aircraft, police and fire engine sirens. Children in the audience were held totally spellbound by the narrative, the action and the pul-sating beat of the music.
The monthlong summer tour of parks and schools in the five New York boroughs and New Jersey will wind up at the Puerto Rican Folklore Festival in Central Park on Aug. 27.