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Writing on the wall.

What do you get when you mix a play, a hip-hop concert and your neighborhood watering hole? Kristoffer Diaz provides the answer in his newest work, Welcome to Arroyo's, which runs at the Old Globe in San Diego through Oct. 31. (It premiered last spring, also under Jaime Castaneda's direction, at Chicago's American Theatre Company.) "I want people to walk into the theatre and immediately feel like they're sitting in their new favorite bar--immediately feel like they're among friends," proposes Diaz, who was a Pulitzer finalist for his wrestling-filled play The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.

Arroyo's, with its graffiti-marked set and dual narrating DJs who spin records, remix scenes and rap about plot points in Greek-chorus style, eases the audience into its world. Its main characters, siblings Alejandro and Molly Arroyo, are coping with their mother's death in decidedly different ways: While Alejandro attempts to turn the family bodega in New York's Lower East Side into a swanky lounge, Molly takes to the streets with her spray-paint can. Both are shaken when a mysterious woman appears with a theory connecting their mother to the creation of hip-hop.

And while hip-hop is everywhere in the play, Diaz reveals a desire to explore the complicated relationship that many Puerto Ricans have with that genre of music and culture. "We were there in the South Bronx when it all started, but we get written out of a lot of the histories. Then when we come back and show an interest, we're somewhat positioned as outsiders," he ventures.


Yet it's this very feeling of alienation that ultimately brings the characters together: "I'm campaigning for community in the play, which is pretty much what I'm doing in every play," Diaz asserts. "I want people to solve problems together."

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Title Annotation:CHICAGO AND SAN DIEGO; Kristoffer Diaz's Welcome to Arroyo's
Author:Rosenfield, Lauren
Publication:American Theatre
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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