You would think I'd be used to it by now because it happens everywhere I go. But I'm not. (Used to it, that is.)
Here's how the scene usually plays out:
Me: “You're from Cuba? So am I.”
Cuban Person I Just Met: “I'm from *insert town in Cuba* and I know your *mother, father, sibling, dog's cat*”
Me: “Shut. Up.”
So last weekend, my daughter Amy Kikita and I went to see Jay Alvarez in his amazing one-man show called, “Be careful! The Sharks Will Eat You!” at the Hollywood Fringe Theater of Note.
In this incredible one-man show, Jay reenacts the story of his family's harrowing escape from Cuba by boat in 1964. He introduces each of the characters in his remarkable true family drama and makes you feel you know each one.
The show gets it's name from the terrifying/hilarious moment when 4 1/2 year old Jay is throwing up over the side of the boat as his family is escaping Cuba and gets this wonderfully Cuban admonition from one of the adults in the boat. As he laughingly points out, “Who says this to a child?”
His gift is his ability to connect with the quintissential Cubaness of it all and to tell his story with both comedy and poignancy.
Jay very acurately took us through the history of Cuba from the late 50's through the beginnings of the revolution and wove these historical facts into his family's personal drama.
We laughed. We cried. We collectively held our breath. Our hearts broke. We sighed in relief. Jay has taken the Cuban gift for storytelling to a phenomenal level. This show is a MUST SEE.
We waited to meet him after the show and stood outside with other fellow show-goers to congratulate him. Obviously most of us were Cuban, and we commented to one another about how incredible the story was and how talented Jay is.
When he came out to greet us on the sidewalk outside the theater, we applauded once again. Did I mention that this show is a MUST SEE?
One sweet little lady stopped him immediately and began questioning him about his parents, which he mentions in the show: Humberto and Chiqui.
Sweet Cuban Lady: “I'm from Matanzas, too. Was Chiqui, your mother, also known as 'Chiquitica?' She was raised in my home.”
This revelation happened as the show had unfolded and she was checking to see if it was true. Sure enough. This smart actor's mother had been raised in the Sweet Cuban Lady's home in Matanzas. And here they were, 3,000 miles and 60+ years later connecting in a little theater in Hollywood. Shut. Up. That just doesn't happen in real life.
She exchanged information with this talented actor and one of the younger gals with her was about to take a photo of her with Jay. It was too dark on the street, so Amy offered to take it with her flash and email to her. (Yay, Smart Phones!)
So, in case you haven't been paying attention, let me recap: This lady's sister was best friends with this actor's mother back in Cuban in the 50's. Got that?
Amy finished taking the photo for them and asked for an email address to send it to. The younger gal in that group said, “Just send it to my mom. Here's her email address.” And she starts rattling off letters as she spells her mom's name while Amy dutifully punches these into her phone.
This is when I peek over Amy's shoulder to read the email address on the phone, because somehow that name sounded familiar…..
Me: “Manduley? Is your family from Holguin?” (Town in Cuba.)
Her (with a surprised look on her face): “Yes!”
Me: “What's your name?”
Her: “Margarita Manduley.”
Me: “Then Mario Manduley was your father?” (You see where this is going, don't you?)
Me again: “Your grandmother and my grandmother…….were sisters.”
Internets, meet my long, lost cousin, Margarita Manduley. Our grandmothers were sisters. (Her father and my mother were first cousins, but that's not important right now.) I know. Shut. UP!
We took the party out to Studio City to an amazing tapas bar called Bokado, located at: 12345 Ventura Blvd., CA 91604, (shameless plug) which is conveniently owned by Margarita's husband, Frank Leon and so celebrated our new-found family with fabulous tapas and toasted with mojitos.
Thanks, Jay Alvarez, for the gift of your phenomenal storytelling and for managing to reunite two families in one unforgettable evening.
Like I always say: It's a small (Cuban) world after all. 😉
For performance information, follow Jay and "Be Careful! The Sharks Will Eat You!" on Facebook.