Meet Teatro Breve, Puerto Rico’s SNL

BY Julia Taveras | PUBLISHED: Wednesday, October 24th, 2012
Meet Teatro Breve, Puerto Rico’s SNL


What do you get when you mix six Puertorriqueños on a family Christmas trip to Vermont? People complaining about el frío de pinga, and some serious Holiday cheery non-cheer, courtesy of Puerto Rico’s Teatro Breve and their upcoming NY performance “Wish You Where Here.

Teatro Breve is a  cultural non-profit enterprise that, for the last six years, has developed a platform for comedy aimed at young students and professionals. Now, Los Breves are coming to New York’s SEA Theater to present their show as part of Borimix Festival. Due to obvious geographical limits, I caught up with director Mikephillip Oliveros, and cast members Luis Gonzaga and Lucienne Hernández via a Skype jangueo (n. hang out).

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Teatro Breve started in 2006 as a group of friends who used café teatros, especially those around the University of Puerto Rico like Taller Cé, to perform.  Café teatros are a tradition that dates back to the 40s and 50s. They’re spaces that provide both light grub and drink, along with open live performances of varied kinds. Some other known café teatros around the Island have taken place at El Nuyorican, Punto Fijo, and Café Araba (in the Myspace days). Mikephillip worked as a bartender at Taller Cé while styudying drama at the UPR, and decided to use the space to put up a small piece with some friends. Afterwards, it all snowballed into El Taller offering him the space on Sundays, and Mikephillip taking on the opportunity.

Their contribution to the mainstream stand-up and improv scene of Puerto Rico was that by using these spaces, says Mike, the cast was able to “bring the theater to the jangueo.” He also noted the importance of rescuing “el espacio creativo” for theater, and re-imagining it for new generations. This direct interaction with the public allowed for a process of “organic influence,” as Lucianne puts it, “the public was influencing us and we were influencing them.” Now in their 12th season, titled “El Fin Del Mundo” Los Breves conceive short pieces, sketches and collaborative work tackling everything from social issues, to gossip, and the daily nuances of La Isla. Below Lucianne, with one of the most popular characters of their weekly stand-up , “Guanina,” complains about how she’s persiá (adj. pants-shat, scared) about going out at night because of the violence in the streets.

Last year, Los Breves premiered their first full-length Christmas-themed piece “Wish You Were Here” at Teatro El Josco in San Juan and now they’re bringing it to NYC. Whether  you keep up with them via their YouTube Channel, or whether you’re a first-time curious audience member, expect  a combination of espanglish, cynical humor and a lesson in dystopic family values with the added Breve touch. Oliveros, Gonzaga, Hernández will be joined by cast members Roy Sánchez-Vahamonde, Lourdes Quiñones, Marisé Álvarez and Alejandro Carpio. Guest actors in their NYC Performance include Efraín López Neris, Alfredo de Quesada, Magali Carrasquillo & Yamil Ramos.

The last time some of the Breves were in New York was during the promotion of Gonzaga’s film Maldeamores, which was participating in the Tribeca Film Festival, in 2007. The folks at Teatro SEA provided the cast with their space for the first time to present their stand up and improv show.

Though they’re in the city for less than a week this time, the cast of Teatro Breve seemed giddy, excited, “uy…It’s the closest thing to a rockstar treatment that we’ve had! Shows on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, then going back to Puerto Rico on Sunday to continue regular rehearsals on Monday.” Yikes!

There’s something to be said about the way in which Los Breves are highlighting theater & café teatros in Puerto Rico, speaking to a new generation. To this, Gonzaga responded,  ”we’re not trying to change anything, we’re just doing what we love.”

Well, if Los Breves keep doing what they love, making us laugh and think at the same time, I’d say that’s a spectacular feat.