Can an interactive theatrical production bridge the gap between whites and Latinos in Suffolk County? That’s the question playwright and director Margarita Espada poses as Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja brings “What Killed Marcelo Lucero?” to Southold Friday night, April 23.
The play, to be performed at First Presbyterian Church in Southold, was written in response to the 2008 murder of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue.
Making the performance particularly timely is the fact that Monday, Jeffrey Conroy, 19, was convicted of manslaughter in the case and could face between eight and 25 years in prison when he is sentenced May 26. Four other Long Island youths pleaded guilty to hate-related crimes in the case and two others have trials pending.
Ms. Espada says that her play offers no answers but challenges audiences to offer their own solutions to curbing racism.
Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri Jr. plans to attend the Friday night performance, but he won’t be the only one speaking about the murder and offering thoughts about how to improve communication between two groups of people who have demonstrated an inability to hear one another. Audience members will be invited to offer their own thoughts and suggestions for improving race relations and putting a stop to violence.
The play is a series of vignettes that lead up to the stabbing of Mr. Lucero, who at one point worked in Riverhead, near the Patchogue train station on Nov. 8, 2008. It includes the words of Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, accused of fueling the fire over immigration policies and minimizing the murder’s significance. The play does not identify Mr. Levy as the speaker, although the words are his.
Following the murder, Mr. Levy was quoted as saying it would have been “a one-day story” had it occurred in Nassau County. He subsequently apologized for the statement.
Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja was formed in 2004 in Ms. Espada’s living room. She is an experimental theater artist and was focused on using the play as a means of creating understanding between the Latino community and its neighbors and improving communication among various Latino cultures, according to the group’s website.
The play was recently performed at Stony Brook to an audience that, according to a New York Times review, was initially stunned into silence before opening up to a wide-ranging discussion of the problem.
The mission committee of First Presbyterian Church is sponsoring the event, which runs from 7 to 9 p.m.

[email protected]