littleboy/littleman, written and conceived by Rudi Goblen, YSD ’22, follows the lives of two Nicaraguan brothers, Fito and Bastian, as they try to make sense of their Latino identity while learning to navigate their complex sibling relationship. Ultimately, they both seek to live a life that means something. Both the brothers are performers, but in different ways: Fito is a street performer who dreams of one day becoming famous; Bastian is a telemarketer who pretends to be white on the phone in order to earn more money. Bastian is also an ardent and pragmatic realist who believes that Fito’s dreams are absurd. Over the course of the show, the audience watches the brothers confront colorism in the Latino community, immigration rights, and Bastian’s lost love. By the end, the brothers must confront the trauma of their childhoods and the death of their mother. Their mother fled Nicaragua and dangerously crossed into the United States to give her children a new life. The brothers question how they will ever live a life that honors this sacrifice their mother made for them.
Goblen is a marvelous playwright—perhaps his greatest achievement is his control of pacing, illuminated by the direction of Christopher D. Betts, YSD ’21. The play breathes with poetic rhythm. Scenes alternate between longform narrative and spoken word vignettes. This fluctuation creates a momentum that guides the audience all the way to the show’s tragic conclusion. The juxtaposition of poetry and colloquial language creates its own music. Through a masterful balance of extremes, Goblen takes us on a ritual journey through memory.
Robert Lee Hart’s, YSD ’20, captivating performance as the charismatic Fito arches across hilarious improvisation (during Fito’s street performances) and a heart-wrenching cathartic drum solo (yes! there’s a drum kit on stage!) that leaves Hart gasping for air. Dario Ladani Sanchez, YSD ’20, brings nuance and empathy to the character of Bastian, a counterweight to his fiery brother. The opportunity to watch actors of this caliber in a setting as intimate as the Yale Cabaret can only be called a gift.
The inviting nature of this production exaggerates the devastation the audience feels at the end when Fito is shot and killed by a police officer after a street performance. Through comedy, street performance, and music, Rudi holds out his hand for us, allows us to bask in the story he has built for us, and then strikes deeply as we sit mournfully in silence after the drums roll and the lights go out.