Improv with a side of sazon…

BY Edgar Peña (@stayGFTD)

“Whoa, what a nice building”

This was my first impression of the Room 28 Improv show. Walking up I did not expect the Alianza Dominicana Triangle Building to be quite like this, a beautiful facade of steel and glass. A building built for the development, and advancement, of the Dominican community uptown. The experience only got better from there as I walked up to check in and didn’t have to spell out my simple, but very Dominican, last name.

When the elevator doors opened I saw rows of seats laid out facing a small stage at the front. I was one of the first guests to walk in, and got the chance to watch all the attendees file in, including some guests from the NYPD. At first, the sight of the shield was off putting. That disappointment quickly dispersed as a saw the officers embrace community leaders, and community members alike. The officers brought out their smiles, and took pictures with the Room 28 crew, gave out handshakes, and were everything you expect from the men and women who have pledged to serve and protect their communities. This was a beautiful moment you can’t find listed in the show’s program.

It’s a half an hour before show time, and I am already submerged into the culture of the show. A look at the women, a listen of the Caribbean drums that make up the popular dembow genre, the rambunctious Spanish, and you know this isn’t an Improv show at UCB.

The lights dim, and the music stops; Ariel Ferreira, founder and CEO of UpStep, walks on stage and give us a warm smile and a cheerful introduction to the show. At this point I’m settled in my chair. If first impressions are everything, Room 28 and the organizers of this event, have covered everything.

When Tommy 5K, of instagram and fame, walks out on stage you realize the first impression was just the icing on the Dominican guava cake. Tommy cruises through a standup routine laden with the unique uptown experience, and enough laughs to make you bust a gut. As a follower of his instagram account, I expected a one dimensional routine about Dominican parents and their never ending island wisdom, but his routine was everything but one dimensional. He casually, and hilariously, walked through buying condoms, dealing with STDs, and why Marvel Comics is better off without a Dominican superhero.

Amidst a roar of laughter and applause, Tommy settles the crowd and gets everyone ready for our first skit of the night. Jerry Diaz, director of Room 28, struts on stage with his best Walter Mercado wig, and introduces us with the first skit of the night; “Your Social Media Life.” Jerry brings out Michael Diaz, and applause fills the room. Michael Diaz, aka Juan Bago, is an established comedian in his own right; millions of views on Youtube, and spots in commercials, “FERNANDOO”. Watching him hit the stage with the grace of a seasoned veteran, and the humility of a man that knows he is good at what he does, is immediately smile inducing. I won’t divulge the contents of the skit, which is for each of you to find out, but Room 28 does not disappoint.

As the show goes on, and they run through multiple skits, one thing is apparent Rachel la Loca is absolutely amazing on stage. She runs through every imaginable stereotype, with the grace, and self-awareness, of a comedic genius. The entire crowd feels it and they are left clamoring for more Rachel as she wraps up her “Oh, You Think I’m Stupid” skit. At this point the show is two skits deep and I can’t stop asking myself “how in the world did I get into this show for free?!”

The show was not without its hiccups, technically difficulties, but the cast was able to navigate through them seamlessly. Jamie Fernandez writes his way through gentrification, cultural appropriation, social media, workplace pressure, religion, and latino stereotypes. Oscar Martinez, Arianna Rodriguez and Anthony Palmini round out a cast of young talented Latinos that exude an awareness and maturity that is well beyond their years. Room 28 has an incredible cast of characters, and it was an inspiring experience to watch them gel together.

I came in not expecting much, but left with a unique, and inspiring experience. Until I caught Room 28 improv show I didn’t realize how much was left to experience from Latinos in show business. We have a unique experience, and a unique story to tell. Room 28 manages to capture how much we need that experience. If you haven’t signed up for one of their shows, now is the time.

As the show wrapped up the applause echoed all over the room. The talent walked onto the stage, each to a much deserve standing ovation. The lights came on and the conversations began to fill the room. The Room 28 cast came out and spoke to everyone in the audience. Selfies were in abundance, and plans for future shows we’re developing right in front of our eyes. Room 28 improv show is an experience. These guys are ambassadors for the culture and the culture is in good hands.

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