“She Hates Coffee” is Weak Tea

   2019-03-09 18:03

The new romantic drama by A. R. Garcia will need work before it’s good to the last drop. 

 She Hates Coffee, a new play written and co-directed by A. R. Garcia, is melodrama of a classical tenor. A passionate romance, the action follows the character Jaden (Kevin Grullon) on the rebound after being left by his bride (Segen Genesis) at the altar. Within his bar/cafe, called ‘Jaden’s Cafe,’ he falls into another relationship as his employees, friends and family watch on from adjoining tables. “She Hates Coffee” swings for the emotional fences, trying to bring a New York/Dominican spin to this rather simple plot. Therefore, it is the details of the characters and dialogue that will set this production apart from its competitors.  



Unfortunately, that is where Garcia’s script lets down his actors. Though from speaking to the producers, it is clear that this project has been in gestation for years, what has been brought to the stage feels more like a first draft or outline than a fully realized production. Characters seem to come floating out of the ether on to the cafe set. For instance, Jaden’s two friends, the supportive one played by Leon Joseph, the more hidebound one by Patrick Brancato, particularly seem to lack definition. Brancato, who does bring a welcome commitment to his role as Tony, has a long center stage speech detailing to the audience how now that he is successful, he is looking to find a better class of romantic one-night stands, and about how none of the women that they meet can meet this standard. But the audience is never given context. What is Tony successful at? What is this job that he is so successful at outside of hanging out at his friend’s bar and hitting on anything that moves? We’ll never know. Almost none of the characters seem to have a life outside the walls of the set. 

The same problem plagues the main romantic interest in the play, Rebecca, played by Krislen Sherrill. She floats into the play, becomes involved with Jaden by the end of her first scene, and then spends the rest of the play mercurially flipping between various polls of emotion, caustic one second, then passionate, which leads to a third act reveal about her relationships to the other characters that leaves the audience deeply confused by what motivates any of her actions. Sherrill gives a solid performance but has been given an impossible task to play, as Rebecca seems to have no internal life and exists mostly as a vamp. 

The thinness of the script tends to hit the lead cast hardest overall. The supporting players repeatedly tell both Jaden and the secondary romantic interest, Lisa, played by Alexandra Bernal that they are smart, driven and good, this being the kind of play where characters tell other characters their key qualities. Unfortunately for the young actors, there are no further details that they can play off of to make these adjectives come to life. Both Grullon and Bernal feel lost, and though they make an attractive couple and have solid chemistry with the ensemble, they are unable to rise above the level of the material.

Because of the nature of the text, the actors who excel in the space tend to have roles that are more broadly drawn. Nikaury Rodriguez, playing Jaden’s mother, makes her two scenes stand out, bringing energy mostly missing from the rest of the play. Andres Chulisi Rodriguez as the raunchy barista Anastasia makes a meal out of what could otherwise be a minor role acting as a chorus of sorts providing some well-needed humor. Both of them seem to be having a blast on stage, and their interactions with the rest of the cast are highlights.  

‘She Hates Coffee’ has a short tour coming up, with stops in Atlanta, Birmingham, and Philadelphia. This will provide plenty of time for the cast and crew to continue to hone this piece, and when it returns to this city, I hope to revise my opinion. 


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