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Delejos (from afar) Jumps Emotionally from Real to Virtual, Hoping to Win through Connection

Delejos (from afar) Jumps Emotionally from Real to Virtual, Hoping to Win through Connection

Delejos (from afar) is in a theatrical world all to itself, and in this neverending lockdown reality, this is high praise. In simplistic terms, this Zoomed production is a one-woman, immersive, multi-media, live play unearthing and unpacking themes surrounding grief, connection, virtual reality, love, creativity, and Latinx identity. In more complex terms, the production is a powerful examination of ‘magical’ and emotional thinking, coupled with symbolic significances that emanate from deep inside an overpowering sense of grief and loss. But instead of discarding or disowning it, as most might want to do, the intelligent and daring NYC-based artist Julie Piñero embraces and believes in all of its transforming beauty and engagement. And that only sorta gets to the core of what’s being done here.

The play is an outpouring of creative engineering and energy, created, written, and performed by Piñero as a way to unleash, through investigation, the pain that fills her up when her newly discovered lover and partner Jose Zambrano suddenly dies after becoming the victim of random street violence in NYC. Heartbreakingly tender and intricate, Piñero tells us the sad tale, transforming and expanding her painful emotional landscape by weaving together stand-up comedy, live music and VR. It’s quite the intoxicating delivery, especially in its wild abandonment of standardized form and structure. She does this, she tells us, because these were the mediums she and Zambrano pursued together. In essence, this is her way of continuing their journey together and hopefully finding peace and salvation. The emotionally heightened product turns that magic and hurt into something unbelievably connecting, thought-provoking, and thoroughly engaging, discovering a new way to uplift the emotional landscape “with the gusto of a game designer.

It’s grief poetry wrapped in performance art, begging to be explored and known by one and all. The piece takes me back to those wonderful East Village nights when we would gather together in a dim lit East Village bar to listen to a friend of a friend’s written word art born out of personal heartache and love. It rings with that complicated but simple artistic beauty, as Piñero, through the examination of Zambrano’s unfinished passion project, the virtual reality game named “Delejos“, nimbly finds her way through the complicated landscape of love, loss, and (de)attachment. She unpacks her new painridden existence at the bedside of a comatose Jose, while finding alignment and solidarity with Jose (and family) in a remarkably similar way to what Zambrano had planned for his players to do. He had miraculously envisioned his virtual game as an explorative pathway through an array of fascinatingly created realities, inspired by his own forced immigration from Venezuela (which, to be honest, feels more like fleeing). The players must find a way to win the fever-dream game by coming together and building a bridge of love and connection. It’s a beautiful concoction, what Zambrano had planned, and Piñero uplifts this modality into her Zoomed theatrical pursuit of FLOW. She searches for her own true self, “like a lost pair of keys“, using his idea of adventures to build (or rebuild) our sense of home and find the energy to bridge the distance between people, cultures, communities and language.

Piñero discovers utter uniqueness in her approach, utilizing the platform of streamed theatre in a remarkably straightforward but novel way that is both interactive and compellingly original. It feels obvious but alarmingly different and creative, as we watch her struggle to make sense of loss, within the context of today’s COVID world, funneling her curiosity into the question: “do we lose something simply because we’re far from it?” It’s a captivatingly intimate Alchemist harnessing of destruction and creation that isn’t quite translatable. Leaving Piñero to ask the impossible question: “Why? Why?” Why are there no answers to the Bitter End? 

With eyes wide shut for moments at a time, the intersection of romantic heartfelt love and creative communal partnership found inside of grief and love is communicated with intense ease layering in a vulnerable intimate edge that registers far more than you ever see coming. It’s impossible not to fall for the wide eyed beauty of Jose, especially through Piñero’s eyes. But why would you fight this beauty, even as sadness overwhelms during all those moments of honesty and clarity. 

Before this project, I would always doubt my own work. It’s why I’ve dabbled in so many mediums: too scared to hear my own voice within one, I jump to the next.” says Piñero. She states that she has “impostor syndrome” when performing, but somewhere inside this tender creation, one that she feels has been spiritually “Written by Julie Piñero and Jose Zambrano”, the promise and the realization of “I love you” (at 9% power) wins in the end. She has something important to say, and she has learned to just say it with passion and creativity. For that, we can only melt into her arms, feeling more alive for the experience, and thankful for our introduction into Delejos (from afar)

Julie Piñero in a Zoom screenshot from Delejos (from afar).

Produced by Caitlin Stone, Delejos (from afar) streams live via Zoom in a limited weekly run until May 1. Runtime is 2 hours with a 5 minute intermission, and the Zoom invite is sent via email day-of performance. The show is FREE, and tickets are available by clicking here. Please reserve one ticket per computer screen, even if multiple people will be in attendance. If you need to cancel, please do so via Eventbrite. Those involved are working hard to keep tickets free, but donations will be gratefully accepted to help with their production costs, please venmo @julie-pinero .

Julie Piñero in a Zoom screenshot from Delejos (from afar).

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Off Broadway
@#frontmezzjunkies

My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my last...so far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to frontmezzjunkies.com

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