A radiant, mesmerizing Gabriela Ortega tells two tales, one her own, the other that of her Dominican grandmother Cristina in Civil War-torn Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic circa 1965 in her captivating 50-minute solo show Las García, though Ortega makes it clear early on that she won’t be letting the truth “get in the way of a good story.”

It was a 2015 Diversity In Writing scholarship that prompted the then USC drama major  to explore her Dominican roots, albeit hardly for the first time.

Indeed Ortega had already begun a 4000-plus-entry Writer’s Log the day her beloved Dominican nanny was dismissed for a theft she may only inadvertently have facilitated, and it is through nanny Patria’s eyes that we discover the Central American patria (homeland) of Ortega’s abuela Cristina, an aspiring singer with dreams of international stardom who found herself intimately involved with a sexy Dominican freedom fighter during the April Revolution of ‘65.

Alternating between Ortega’s own romantic relationship with boyfriend Ryan and her grandmother’s with Raúl, Las García showcases not only its creator’s gifts as an actor (Ortega vanishes into character after character including a delightful preteen Gabriela and a simply unforgettable Patria), but as a writer as well, as when Patria recalls “the unbearable heat that made it impossible to distinguish sweat from tears” in her native Santo Domingo. And Ortega’s rendition of a Spanish-accented “Come Fly With Me” (“the 1958 classic by Francisco Sinatra”) pays tribute to grandmother’s pipes.

Directed with visual flair by Alex Alpharoah, Las García benefits enormously from Jessica Major’s dramatic lighting design and from sound designers Philip Allen and Stephen Jensen’s equally potent mix of salsa music, sirens, and gunfire, with Audrey Halaas Voorhees’s inventive costumes completing the production design mix on an otherwise bare Studio C Artists’ blackbox stage.

Las García is produced by Matthew Quinn and Ortega. Major is stage manager.

A 2016 Hollywood Fringe Festival award winner, Las García has returned a year later for an entertaining, informative, moving, self-empowering encore. Abuela Cristina would be proud.

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Studio C Artists, 6448 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
August 10, 2017
Photos: Kelly Duarte



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