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Jackson Heights 3am

This delightful work set in New York's most ethnically diverse neighborhood proves to be a quintessentially American story.

Arlene Chico-Lugo and Rajesh Bose
in Jackson Heights 3AM
(© Joel Weber)
Theatre 167's Jackson Heights 3am, now playing at PS 69 in the heart of Jackson Heights and then moving to Queens Theatre in Flushing Meadows Corona Park for a final week of performances, is a sheer delight from beginning to end. This unusual work adroitly captures the frenetic energy of a neighborhood often called the crossroads of the world.

In its current space, the audience is confronted with a makeshift stage constructed from PS 69's lunch tables. The denizens of Roosevelt Avenue spring forth from behind them. An Indian shopkeeper, a high-heeled drag queen, a gutterpunk, and a pair of NYPD cops are among the passers-by in this busy street scene.

The simple set consists of four blocks and an upstage television screen, allowing for maximum versatility in this fast-paced play -- the work of seven writers collaborating on 10 overlapping storylines.

Among the many plotlines is a star-crossed love affair between a Russian immigrant and his Latina girlfriend; a closeted Long Island police officer reeling from an abortive Craigslist hookup finds love and understanding from a fabulous Mexican-American boy at a local gay bar; and an Indian car dispatcher, working the graveyard shift, receives a series of phone calls from a secret admirer.

Director Ari Laura Kreith has smartly guided a stellar ensemble of 20 actors. While there's not a weak link in the cast, special praise should be given to John P. Keller for his hilarious portrayal of drag superstar Connie, J. Stephen Brantley for his terrifying (and also hysterical) turn as meth-head Leo, and Rajesh Bose for the youthful exuberance he brings to the role of Devaj, a middle-aged Bangladeshi cab driver smitten with an Ecuadorian woman, but hindered by a language barrier.

Kreith and her team have peeled back the layers of race, ethnicity, and nationality to expose the basic hopes and fears of their characters. They want success, freedom to pursue their dreams, a better life for their children, and, most of all, love. Set in the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the United States, Jackson Heights 3am, proves to be a quintessentially American story.