THE REAL JAMES BOND WAS DOMINICANBy Christopher Rivas & Daniel Banks
Presented By DNAWorks & Bishop Arts Theatre
Bishop Arts Theatre Center
Writer/Performer/Creator - Christopher Rivas
Director / Creator - Daniel Banks
Original Score/Percussion – Wilson R. Torres
Lighting Designer – Driscoll Otto
Projections Designers – Alexandra Kelly Colburn & Kate Freer
Production Stage Manager – Jackie Rivera
Artistic Producer – Teresa Coleman Wash
Graphic Designer – Troy Lambert
Reviewed Performance: 5/17/2019
Reviewed by Travis McCallum, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
“The Real James Bond is Dominican” is a story about one man’s journey growing up in a world full of white supremacy, and how he tries to make sense of his place in society. Set in the mid to late 20th century, playwright and performer Christopher Rivas takes us on a ride through his personal life and the challenges of growing up, one story at a time.
This is a one-man show, though not exactly. Rivas is joined onstage with the incredibly talented Wilson R. Torres as the not-so-background musician jamming out to the scenes with a set of curious instruments including percussion drums, a “violin”, a whistle and even a bell. The audience themselves are called upon time and time again to drive the story in one of the most engaging productions I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of.
From the onset, Rivas comes blazing in his white undies and a sleeveless undershirt with all the energy of a rambunctious 8-year-old boy. He reaches into his toy box bringing out every imaginable toy gun you see in the Bond movies. He dreams of growing up and being James Bond.
This 70+ minute show is pumped full of the most amazing stories, rich with intimate details of Rivas’ life growing up. He leverages all the theatrical magic to his whims, sharing a piece of advice from his mum about avoiding the cracks on the ground outside in NYC. Down beams this beautiful visual design from Lighting Designer Driscoll Otto to complement everything we are hearing in perfect synchronicity.
Chalk full of humor and depth, Rivas keeps us engaged with thoughtful comments and asides about people and the relationships we all share in one form or another. Central to his story is the emergence of an unsung hero: Porfirio Rubirosa. AKA- the real James Bond.
As Rivas describes the kind of man “Ruby” was, he jokes about an “11 inch, you know” running gag, which breaks some of the somber and sensitive topics to arise.
Thematic topics on whitewashing, sexism, interracial dating and more.
As a Latino, and as someone who struggles to fit in with white society, this show resonates a lot with my own internal struggles to be someone I’m not just to get ahead in life. When Rivas talks about his heroes like Ruby, his father, Peter Pan and Bond… he always finds himself torn. Because there are elements he likes about those role models, but other things he cannot accept.
Rivas weaved between many languages throughout the show, always quick to translate to the audience in English what he was saying. Words like Mijo, although I’m still not sure what ‘woke’ means! But there we see the beauty of the one-man-show takes shape. It’s an interactive experience where he gradually warms up the audience, showcasing the sanctuary of the theatre as a safe space of self-expression.
At one point, we find ourselves dancing to Drake with the bass turned to the max. If you like pleasant surprises, there are many hidden experiences throughout the show so embrace that connect with Rivas. And even if you reject his advances, he’ll shrug it off with humble respect and humor.
One of my favorite things about this performance is the intention behind every line. There are many times throughout the show where Rivas repeats the same phrase 3 times to ensure we get it. For example, his father says, “You’ll see. Your day will come. You’ll see.” Or when Rivas references the Ruby’s nose job he says, “When we change ourselves, we lose ourselves.”
This is perhaps the defining part about the whole show from a technical standpoint. Rivas’ message & script carries a great deal of insight in the human soul. If I had to describe “The Real James Bond is Dominican” in one word, it’s in the title: Real. His personality. His words. His demeanor. Rivas is just being vulnerable and genuine with us.
He even says, “I don’t have answers. It’s just about presenting facts.”
In addition to the performers themselves, a projector on the backscreen has a major impact of the engagement, especially during costume changes. Each image, each video carries a singular purpose to drive powerful points Rivas wants to convey. Historical footage of Ruby, the Tigre, countless women being blurred from existence, the partial television—I loved it all. Hats off the Projections Designer Alexandra Kelly Colburn and Kate Freer.
Rivas put this show on because he has something to share with the world. He wants to tell people that it’s okay to be yourself. Because if you try to be someone else, you will live a life of striving, a life that is never enough, always asking what’s next. And then you will always try to blame others for your unhappiness. Well… that’s what I got from it at least. What about you?
May 16 through May 19, 2019
Bishop Arts Theatre
215 South Tyler Street
Dallas, Texas 75208-4934
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