INOLA McGUIRE and the cast
REVIEW: Yaki Yim Bamboo @ the 13th Street Repertory Theater
The performance that I have seen is “Yaki Yim Bamboo, The Musical” written by Fred Rohan-Vargas, directed and choreographed by Alex Acevedo, Lyrics by June Rachelson-Ospa, music by Jay Griggs, arrangement by Noriko Sunamoto; and starring Kristina Calo, Andrew Clarke, Azuza “Sheshe” Dance, Bobby Gamez, and Janaki Gerard.
The setting of this musical shows a kaleidoscope of colors for the audience to appreciate and love at the same time. The singing and the dancing of the performers allow the audience to sit back and enjoy the view of a slice of life from the Caribbean. The portrayal of a mongoose and an iguana permits the audience to broaden its understanding about wild life in the region. In the performance, the mongoose surely lives up to its reputation of being a very sly animal.
The audience experiences a part of life that represents the washing, the hanging, and the folding of clothes. The chore of cooking for the family is a big part of life, and a specific dish that is made from corn meal is on the menu for the day. One mother in particular awaits the return of her son, Bobotwee, from the magical island of Yaki Yim Bamboo. She stays hopeful for his safe return back to St. Thomas.
The children on the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo enjoy their childhoods, and they treasure their fond memories of this magical place where all of their dreams come through. Other animals, mainly the domesticated ones, display their calling cards for the audience to hear. One of these children refuses to grow up and leave the island, and he grants himself the position of guard of the inhabitance in order to prolong his transition into adulthood.
Now, Bobotwee assumes the role of grand master, and he implements his power on the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo. He experiences growing pains, and he refuses to acknowledge his problem. He dislikes children and animals, too. He tries to be in control and he is out foxed by two cunning animals, mongoose and iguana. Mongoose lives up to his reputation of being the slyest animal in the Caribbean! There is a folk song in the Caribbean that backs up this claim. The song goes like this, “Sly mongoose, dog knows your name….” Bobotwee intends to eat the sly mongoose and the bare-faced iguana for dinner, but they anticipate his plan and they dodge the bullet. Yet, they deliver the sack of onions to him. It is known that Iguana soup is a specialty dish in the Caribbean.
They create a plan of their own to trap Bobotwee. Mongoose and Iguana plot to get rid of Bobotwee. They intimidate him, but mongoose gets caught and he has to talk his way out of danger. Mongoose and his good buddy Iguana force Bobotwee to realize that change is a scary thing. It is the bumpy ride of life. Iguana tells Bobotwee that a hurricane is coming. There is an imminent danger ahead for the inhabitants of the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo. Bobotwee focuses his concerns on the safety of others, and he joins in with the clapping and singing of the Caribbean beat. After, Bobotwee’s mother tells the audience that her son comes back. Perhaps Bobotwee returns in time to eat some of the savory “fungie” cooked corn meal for lunch or dinner.
Some of the children in the audience participate on stage, too. They seize the opportunity to create fond memories of their own. This musical gives a glimpse of life in the Caribbean, and it allows the use of the imagination where all of our dreams can come to fruition. The audience gets the opportunity to go beyond its boundary, and it creates another world to explore in terms of culture.
The writer’s message resonates with the audience in the portrayal of culture, geography, and zoology. In addition, he addresses the emotional side of life where some children refuses to grow up. There are many people in our society today who refuses to or they do not know what it means to grow up. Recently, I have seen a seventy-year old behaving as though he is a nine-year old child. There is a great divide between chronological aging and growing up. There is no place for them on the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo. I have a few chosen words for them. Grow up!