Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez Goes To Israel (To Speak To God At The Wailing Wall)
nytheatre.com review by Amy Lee Pearsall
August 15, 2010
Leila Arias's one-woman show, Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez Goes to Israel (to Speak to God at the Wailing Wall), is a brief journey into a cast of characters encountered in flashbacks and real time during the title character's visit to Jerusalem. Omarys, fresh off the airplane and dressed somewhat inappropriately to visit a religious shrine, limps out on stage with a shower curtain rod as a cane, having faked an injury at the bidding of her father in an attempt to get bumped up to first class. An unseen person on stage directs her to cover her bosom and she does so—with a miniature version of the Puerto Rican flag that she had brought as an offering to God.
When watching a play that takes place in a land many consider holy and whose main characters are Catholic Hispanic, Persian, and Jewish, it could be easy to cringe at the stereotypes that occasionally rear their heads in this production. Thankfully, Arias—an actress whose heritage is as mixed as those she portrays—is an endearing, charming performer with an understated approach to her characters. Omarys is a young Puerto Rican / Persian prone to rapid-fire Spanglish and walks under the weight of multiple religious medallions. It is almost as though she is carrying an albatross of faith as she asks God for the answer as to whether or not she should marry her boyfriend Hector.
We meet Omarys's mother, a proper Persian lady dishing out natural beauty advice in English and Farsi from behind ever-present sunglasses to protect herself from the evil eye. A Jewish woman who runs the nearby Kabbalah store is a hoot, eyes all a-twinkle, peering at Omarys from atop her lavender horn rims. Arias's female characters are considerably stronger and better defined than the males in this story, an issue that perhaps could have been better addressed by director Richard Seyd. A strange Jamaican who claims to be with Wailing Wall security appears from out of nowhere; while the accent was good, it wasn't very clear who he was or what he was doing. We hear about Omarys's father but do not meet him. Hector and one of his friends appear briefly but stay in the realm of stereotype.
Realizing that this piece is largely a comedy, given the landscape there are some fantastic opportunities to also achieve genuine pathos. While Omarys gets the answer that she needs in regards to her engagement, there is no real feeling of her having achieved communion, either with the God she has come to speak with or the people she has encountered in Jerusalem. I think what Arias has on her hands is a great start to a larger one-woman show, one with a more expansive throughline and plenty of time to allow her characters to bloom. In its current 40-minute incarnation, Omarys Concepcion Lopez Perez Goes to Israel (to Speak to God at the Wailing Wall) leaves the viewer wanting more—not just of Arias, but also of the story itself.