By Raquel V. Reyes
Richard Blanco’s and Vanessa Garcias’ Sweet Goats & Blueberry Señoritas is steeped in Cubanisms that will delight Miami audiences. The 90-minute play runs through Dec. 3rd at Actor’s Playhouse at the Miricale Theatre in Coral Gables.
Sweet Goats & Blueberry Señoritas tells the story of Beatriz’ complicated “no-contact” relationship with her mother that includes prank sweepstake calls home and intergenerational trauma a la Pedro Pan. The main character of the six-person cast is Beatriz, played by Melissa Ann Hubicsak, who runs a small bakery in Maine. The actor shows her chops in the dramatic moments giving the playwrights’ words weighted emotions that feel real.
It is the casual and comedic scenes that lose a little verisimilitude in their delivery. JL Rey makes up for any laugh lulls thanks to his fully embodied role as Tio Eme who comes for to visit Beatriz from Miami. Another standout is Michael Gioia in the supporting role of oddball curmudgeon Maynard. His quiet and measured portrayal steals the scene is the best way.
Conor Walton as Blake and Elizabeth Price as Georgie give solid performances as Beatriz’ neighbors and found family. Family is the multi-strand theme of Sweet Goats & Blueberry Señoritas. Each character ruminates on unresolved troubles and wants. Georgie and Maynard, a former couple deal with a breach of trust. Blake sneaks out to smoke under the full moon and ruminates on his longing for purpose outside his role as husband to the town’s hero-like veterinarian. He finds it in the titular goats. Blake dabbles as a “fromager” as we see in one of the first scenes where he enters with a burlap sack of goat cheese. Beatriz later uses it to make a Maine version of pastelitos thus combing her Miami-Cuban roots with her chosen home. The title’s blueberries get a similarly delicious treatment by the end of the act but not before a few hilarious gabs at Georgie’s inedible pies.
Clever set design by Brandon Newton takes advantage of the shallow yet wide stage by creating multiple levels and doorways that feel like a fold-out dollhouse. Beatriz’ bakery is flanked by two domestic spaces. The set dressing is simple yet effective with smart choices like the use of Spanish tiles that reflect Beatriz’ Cuban heritage. Eric Nelson’s lighting design is flawless, creating warm and subtle moments that transport the viewer to early mornings and late nights in wooded Maine. But the production element that shines brightest is Reidar Sorensen’s sound design. From bird chirps that turn into drum beats that morph into classic Cuban sons, the soundscape enhances the storytelling.
Birds permeate the story with symbolism. Maynard has a sick solitary love bird. A cardinal visits Beatriz in feathered and allegorical forms. Marilyn, Beatriz’ estranged mother, is represented as the Cardinal red that is laced throughout the set and story. Marilyn is a child of Chango, the orisha that wears said sanguine color. She and Beatriz reunite and dance in the Afro-Cuban style that is used in orisha worship. Barbara Bonilla authentically plays the hard exterior but soft centered mother character with grace and humanity.
The playwrights are unapologetic in their use of Cubanisms and give little to no explanation of the Santeria mentions, dichos, and other cultural colloquialisms. Audiences familiar with the culture will enjoy a deeper understanding of the story. Blanco and Garcia have given the cultural uninitiated other moments to hold sacred and meaningful such as Georgie’s call and response poetry game and Blake’s howling at the moon.
Blanco, recognized as the fifth Presidential Inaugural Poet in U.S. history by President Obama and honored with the National Humanities Medal by President Biden in 2023, also is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Miami-Dade County. Garcia, an established rising star in theater, has gained widespread acclaim for her recent works, including the immersive sensation The Amparo Experience. Her play #GRACED at Zoetic Stage received a 2023 Carbonell Awards nomination for Outstanding New Work, Play, or Musical.
Sweet Goats & Blueberry Señoritas is for fans of Richard Blanco’s tender and nostalgic poetry and Vanessa Garcias’ aptitude with family dynamics, and dramas that ripple rather than roar.
Raquel V. Reyes is the author of the award-winning Caribbean Kitchen Mystery series. Her latest novel is Barbacoa, Bomba, and Betrayal. Find her across social media as @LatinaSleuths and at www.LatinaSleuths.com
Sweet Goats & Blueberry Señoritas runs through Dec. 3 at Actor’s Playhouse at the Miricale Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables. Running time is 90 minutes without intermission. Performances are at 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday’ at 3 p.m. Sundays. A special weekday matinee will be at 2 p.m. Wednesday, November 15. Special events include Sweet Goats & Blueberry Señoritas Happy Hour from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, November 16; will include BOGO wine/beer, specialty drinks, and $10 CrêpeMaker crepes. Tickets are $30 at the kiosk until 6:30 p.m. for the 8 p.m. performance. A talk back with the cast and director will follow the production on Friday, November 17. Tickets range from $55 to $85. Call (305) 444-9293, visit www.ActorsPlayhouse.org or at the box office (280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134). The theatre offers 10 percent off all weekday performances for seniors and $15 student rush tickets to any performance 15 minutes prior to curtain with identification. Group discounted rates are offered for 10 patrons or more through the group sales department at (305) 444-9293 ext. 2 or on www.ActorsPlayhouse.org. For updates and to join the conversation, follow Actors’ Playhouse on Facebook @actorsplayhouse, Instagram @apmiracletheatre, YouTube @actorsplayhousecg and Twitter @apmiracle. #SweetGoatsMiami