(Elysa Gardner’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/19; via Pam Green.)
Paola Lázaro’s inner left wrist is marked with a jagged outline of Puerto Rico, where she was born and raised. “My uncle tattooed me, in exchange for a pack of Marlboro Reds,” Ms. Lázaro, a playwright and actress, explained. “My dark theory is that if I’m found dead in a corner of a street and I have no ID, they can just take my body there. Everyone will know where I come from.”
Ms. Lázaro had just spent the morning watching a rehearsal of her new play — her first to be produced professionally — “Tell Hector I Miss Him,” which is now in previews and opens Monday, Jan. 23, at the Atlantic Theater Company. The cast includes two stars of the hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco, as well as Ms. Lázaro’s fellow writer-performer Lisa Ramirez, in whose work “To the Bone” she acted two years ago.
Before the company broke for lunch, two other actors, Flaco Navaja and Luis Vega — playing a luckless cocaine enthusiast named Hugo and a clown-like figure called El Mago in Old San Juan — ran a scene in which they have drug-induced visions. The dialogue is gritty but lyrical, sprinkled with Spanish and pocked with profanity.
Ms. Lázaro drank it in, plainly still tickled to hear her words read back to her by pros. As Mr. Vega patted down and shook out his jacket, pretending to look for Hugo’s fix, she bent over laughing. She then stared, rapt, as El Mago shed his joyful mask and addressed a spirit from his past.
El Mago (Spanish for magician) is based on Ms. Lázaro’s paternal grandfather, who has so longed to be reunited with his dead wife that he has devised various suicide strategies, and related them — with some humor, apparently — to the playwright’s mother. “He says, ‘Tell the kids to come visit me in the next 20 days, because I’m going to die,’” Ms. Lázaro recalled. “Poor man, he’s 97, and he keeps living and living.”