Locuras en Wichita (Wild in Wichita)

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Photo Source: Michael Palma

He has been married four times; she has never married, although she adopted a son. He never graduated from high school; she was a teacher. He likes to eat tacos; she prefers tostones. He listens to Juan Gabriel; she likes Willie Colón. He is of Mexican ancestry and thinks she talks funny. She is of Puerto Rican heritage and feels the same way about him. About the only thing that Joaquín and Carmela have in common is that they are stuck together as the only Spanish speakers in a nursing home in Wichita, Kansas.

That they fall in love is perhaps inevitable. It is not all that is predictable in Lina Gallegos' "Locuras en Wichita (Wild in Wichita)," which is presented by Repertorio Español in both English and Spanish (with simultaneous translation). This play about the courtship between a woman who is 78 years old and a man who is 80 does not avoid familiar paths, either for love stories or for stories about old people. It is also too long, takes a turn toward melodrama, and includes two obvious and unnecessary characters, that of the man's disapproving daughter and the woman's disapproving son.

Yet there is much that is sweet, funny, and touching in the banter between the two central characters. We forgive, even find funny, such lines as Joaquín saying to Carmela, "Let's go do some drugs," when they are about to take their prescription medications, because it is the characters' joke about themselves, not a crack by the playwright at their expense. We even forgive the dips into cutesiness and sentimentality, because they are made to seem almost fresh by the actors who persuasively portray the two lovers: Frank Robles, as the senior Lothario, and Miriam Cruz, as the initially reluctant object of his affections. "They remind me of my grandparents," one theatergoer was overheard saying. His grandparents should be so lucky.

Presented by and at Repertorio Español, 138 W. 27th St., NYC. June 7–Sept. 25. Schedule varies. (212) 225-9999 or www.repertorio.org.