As if Billy Corben didn’t have enough on his plate, he made a play out of his 2006 documentary “Cocaine Cowboys”.
And. It. Rocked.
If you don’t know who Billy Corben is, he’s a Miami boy, born and raised, who has made a ton of documentaries about the University of Miami football program, a sexual assault scandal at the University of Florida, and most recently, Screwball, the story of steroids in baseball (hello Alex Rodriguez). One of his most famous documentaries deals with the cocaine trade in the 1980s that helped build the city of Miami.
And now, it’s on a stage in Lincoln Road at the Colony Theatre. Together with playwright Aurin Square, they brought one of the best plays I’ve ever seen come to life.
“Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy” is refreshingly, even for people who don’t care for history. Based on the characters in the original documentary, and real life, the play tells the story from the point of view of Jorge “Rivi” Ayala (Yancey Arias), one of the Colombian ‘cocaine cowboys’ who was a hitman for the Godmother of Cocaine, Griselda Blanca (Zilah Mendoza).
Ayala is willing to rat on his boss to cops Diaz (Nicholas Richberg) and Singleton (Stephen G. Anthony), a Cuban-American and un gringo, respectively. Their interactions brought some of the most memorable lines of the play such as, “You’re Cuban right? All you Cubans think your sh*t tastes like dulce de leche.” Their interactions also makes you think about many of the race conversations that happen on the streets of Miami.
The play itself was equally hilarious and dramatic. Sometimes the room was filled with laughter, and other times everyone held their breath.
And I know every play review says “wow! The acting!” but WOW! The acting!!! They literally made me forget where I was for two hours. Not to mention, all except Arias, had to play multiple characters. Mendoza shines as both the Godmother of Cocaine and Katherine Fernandez-Rundle, the State Attorney for the State of Florida.
Fun fact, my mom whispered to me during the play that real life Kathy went after her boyfriend many moons ago.
The best part of the play though is their constant ability to break the fourth wall. At one point, Kathy shook my mom’s hand and Rivi asked me, “bonita, wanna go for a ride?”. Involving the audience with questions and commentary really made a 2006 documentary about the 1980s come to the reality of 2019.
Without spoiling too much, towards the end of the play is Rivi’s monologue about who’s really the bad guy in all of this. He might be behind bars because of drugs, but Kathy’s kids constantly get into trouble but because she’s the State Attorney, they don’t get in trouble. He also mentions that because the Colombians and the drugs “brought la violencia,” as everyone says, how come kids keep shooting up schools in 2019?
I saw “Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy” almost a week ago and I can’t stop thinking or talking about it. You should too.
Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, through April 7.