Daphne Rubin-Vega in Empanada Loca : Notes From the Underground

Aaron Mark's play, Empanada Loca, a dramatic monologue that zips by in 95 minutes, starts in the dark. A voice, a light, and then Dolores! As Dolores, Daphne Rubin-Vega, her cheeks hollow as a skeleton, framed by her hoodie, recounts her life story, how she came to live here in the lowest recesses of a subway tunnel. The fine staging is minimalist at the Labyrinth Theater, just lights in a black box with a massage table at center. Infinitely resourceful, a skill she picked up in prison, Dolores has wired the space for lighting, she says with pride, so a visitor can actually see her, and get used to the dark, as she did, although the food's not great down here several levels down, and loneliness is an issue.

Dolores is a chatterbox who, under Aaron Mark's direction, phrases his lines into poetry, even as the story emerges in all its gothic glory. Empanada Loca refers to a foody's heaven in upper Manhattan where she used to live, its tasty delicacies made with love, and more. As she comes to speak some horrific acts--think Sweeney Todd--an avowed inspiration for the writer, you see the logic, even as Dolores' existence climaxes. This is a terrific night of theater, quite literally.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.