The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Book-It production of this Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel written by Junot Diaz introduces its audience to the corruption in the Dominican Republic and the difficulties of its immigrants who seek a new life in the United States. The adaptation and direction are by Elise Thoron.

Photo by John Ulman.

The play’s hero, an overweight recent arrival in the United States has dreams of grandeur while living a life of limits. He’s a nerd who loves science fiction and would love even more to have a girlfriend. He’s poised somewhat treacherously between two worlds: the world of his childhood and the contemporary world of the United States which doesn’t turn out to be quite as wonderful as he had anticipated.

This one-man show is fortunate to have a consummate actor playing the full cast that makes up the play. Elvis Nolasco is astounding. He’s Oscar, his friend, his girlfriend, a police sergeant, thugs, mother, sister, grandparents, and more. And he does all this with no costume changes. Instead it is through his voice, his gestures, his posture, and facial expressions that he populates the stage.

Meanwhile, we are given a powerful picture of life in Santo Domingo (that’s the country occupying the same Island as does Haiti.) Here corruption is rampant. Poverty, extreme poverty, is pervasive. The model for appropriate male behavior is the macho swaggering stud. Poor Oscar! He’s escaped that to be thrust into a world where fat kids are teased unmercifully and he has to learn a new language. Where loneliness and isolation are his lot. Nolasco captures all of it, all the heartbreak, violence, and naivet√© of our young hero.

Kudos to the production team that has created a rather dark set that captures the mood. It’s perfect for this play.

Through May 6 at Center Theatre Seattle Armory, Seattle Center, 206-216-0833 or Book-It.org.

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