This past Monday, LASO hosted their closing event of Latinx Heritage Month: a production of “Platanos y Collard Greens” performed in Hogan Ballroom for members of the Holy Cross community. Beginning as an off-broadway play, the satirical comedy now tours at different colleges and universities across the country.
Brandon Brito ‘20 says, “As a co-chair for LASO along with Louis Hurtado (the other co-chair) we were very excited to bring ‘Platanos y Collard Greens’ to campus.This offered a new platform to discuss the beauty of the Latinx culture, but also highlighted the real issues as well. As someone who did see it a few years ago, I was thrilled to bring it to Holy Cross to showcase how racism is prevalent everywhere, even within the cultures that are usually victims of racism. We didn’t want another lecture or speaker but rather a satirical approach to get a laugh out of something that is honest.”
The play follows a group of African-American and Latino college students in New York City. Freeman, an African-American young man, is running for student government president and falls for Angelita, a Dominican girl. Their relationship is tested when Angelita’s mother reveals her disgust that her daughter is dating a black boy. Rounding out the cast are OK, Freeman’s best friend and wannabe ladies’ man, Malady, Freeman’s running partner, ‘Nilsa, Angelita’s best friend, and Freeman’s father, a psychologist and college professor who tries to help Freeman understand his worldview.
The play is a satire, and though funny, it is hard to watch at some moments. Characters, especially OK and ‘Nilsa, are characters of their race, fulfilling every stereotype we are meant to associate with people of color. The satire, at times, doesn’t feel obvious enough, risking the chance that someone will walk away from the show with nothing but offense. There are moments that don’t quite make sense, maybe because certain characters and parts of the show have been cut for the touring version. In one puzzling moment, Freeman’s father starts to dance with OK as his backup while Freeman looks on. In another, Angelita’s mom suffers a heart attack while arguing about her daughter’s relationship with Freeman. It is later strongly implied that the mother fakes the heart attack to bend her daughter’s will, but this is neither confirmed nor denied by the end of the show. These moments seem to balance the line between satire and just plain ridiculousness, leaving the audience feeling confused.
Satire is tricky and “Platanos y Collard Greens” doesn’t get it right sometimes, but there is a saving grace in the show. The show opens with Freeman performing a spoken word poem titled “Platanos y Collard Greens,” and in between scenes each character has a chance to perform their own powerful poem about the ways in which they have experienced racism. They’re all incredibly moving, and they help get the message of the play across: Everyone’s experience with racism is uniquely different. There are no blanket terms, making it all the more important to actively listen to someone’s experience.
Following the show, the cast was asked what they think the takeaway of the show is. Responses varied, but the overall theme was the importance for unity in the current day. The show is not overtly political; It was written in 2003 and has been performed since then. But, when watching, it is impossible not to think about how it’s meaning has changed over the years, both for those acting and those watching.