The Jester Interview:
Karina Arroyave & Gary Hilborn
By Michael & Gabi Shashoua
A few years ago, actress Karina Arroyave presented “Wonder Woman Wears Raggedy Ann Pajamas,” a play in which she played versions of herself and her mother. The show was a dramatic piece that still contained bits of dark comedy in the dialogue from the characterizations. Now Arroyave is back with a new, full-length play that further develops and broadens the mother character, Chula, from the first piece, and has a more natural comedy feel to it, entitled “The Love Junkies of Hell’s Kitchen.” Arroyave is directing and appearing with actor Gary Hilborn in the production at Theater for the New City, 155 1st Ave., New York, on Aug. 23, 26, 28 and 31, and Sept. 2. Jester’s Michael & Gabi Shashoua spoke with Arroyave and Hilborn about the production after a recent rehearsal.
MS: What’s happened between the first piece [“Wonder Woman”] and this one [“Love Junkies”]?
KA: I’ve started seven different plays. I was maybe close to finishing at least one of them and halfway finished with another one and they just weren’t right. I was starting to feel like I was never going to finish another play again, and it was very depressing to feel that way. Finally, it was that I really wanted to write about this character again, Chula, and in the other plays that I started, I hadn’t gone back to her. I was scared or something. But this was a story I really wanted to tell, writing Chula again, and that was finally the thing that did it.
MS: So you reached the point where you were satisfied with this particular work?
KA: I started to write it as a short play and then it turned out to be a full-length play. I really didn’t mean to write a full-length play. I really wanted to write a short play and that’s what helped me finish it. It was just the first one that I finished, so it was, ‘Alright, we’re going with this one.’
But I like this play much better than the first play and this is a revamped version of the character. Her core is the same as in the last play, but she was a lot more dysfunctional. She didn’t work and she was agoraphobic. I didn’t want to write about the mother-daughter relationship because I had already done that. So I wanted to write about her & what’s really going on in her life – Chula’s life.
MS: What’s the basic premise or situation that she’s in now?
KA: This is a two character play. The premise of it is that Chula has a best friend, Mickey Maloney, and she starts this reality show in her apartment called “Yakety-Yak and a Bottle of Jack.” Her first guest is Mickey. On the surface, it’s them trying to do this reality show, but by the end of it, reality really does come forth -- the reality that both characters aren’t quite facing.
MS: Gary, how did you join the production?
GH: I was cast. I fell in love with the character and fell in love with the show – with both of the characters. But I really understood Mickey, so it was great. Mickey is … a little rough around the edges, an Irish guy from Staten Island who lives in Hells Kitchen. He and Chula are neighbors; they’re best friends. Deep down he’s got a heart of gold and he’s just looking for somebody to share that with. That’s him. Just a regular guy.
MS: Are there parts to this that have developed in rehearsal beyond what you originally wrote?
KA: I think so – from rehearsing it with someone instead of me doing it alone in my apartment and envisioning what the other character might do. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned directing is that I can’t put my idea of something from my head over the other person’s actual process. I wanted to try to let Gary find Mickey. Slowly I started to back away a little bit and give him room to breathe and find things.
GH: But I understand it’s a difficult process – we had this conversation – usually, as a writer, you have a little bit of a distance. It’s a forced distance. You hand it over to a director and actors and they do their thing with it. She took on a big task here by being in it, directing it and having written it, which I totally think was the best way to go, especially given the limited amount of time we had to prepare. It’s like sending Mickey off to college to become his own man.
KA: Dropping him off.
GH: It’s like letting go of your kids. There’s a point. I knew that was difficult, but I would say she did it really well. She gave me Mickey and let me work with Mickey. I understand it’s a difficult thing.
KA: And he came up with things that honestly are just brilliant -- things that I never would have come up with in my head writing them. … In my character breakdown, one of the things I sought was that Mickey ‘must have good comedic timing.’ What Gary brings into rehearsal is just so funny. He has great comedic timing so I lucked out with that.
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