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If the empanadas of Dolores Roach, a citizen of Washington Heights, Manhattan, have an aftertaste of meat pies Londoners, is that the series of which she is the heroine owes a lot to Sweeney Todd, a legendary barber turned cutthroat, who supplied meat to a stall in Fleet Street in, among other places, the musical of Stephen Sondheim. To make Dolores Roachtitled in English The Horror of Dolores Roachwhich allows sensitive souls to p their way, the creators have therefore filled a comic paste of horrific pieces, freezing the whole thing with a veneer of social chronicle. The result would undoubtedly remain anecdotal if the main role had not been entrusted to Justina Machado, who makes the central character a captivating figure, arousing as much empathy as repulsion.
When we meet her, Dolores Roach (her father was called Rocha, he wanted to anglicize his name, badly since Roach translates as “roach”) ends a long stay in prison. She was sent there because she was residing in the apartment of the man of her life, a marijuana retailer, the day the Drug Enforcement Administration visited him. And also because she vigorously resisted her arrest. It is all the ambivalence of the character: his bad luck is matched only by the bad impulses it arouses. Vulnerable but ultimately indestructible, Justina Machado’s Dolores would be a major character in the history of the series if she had found a dramaturgy to her measure.
When she returns to her neighborhood, after sixteen years, her lover has disappeared, just like most Dominican businesses, the largest community in Washington Heights, victims of rampant gentrification. Dolores narrowly finds asylum in the last vestige of her neighborhood’s Latino past, Empanada Loca, a shop that lives under the direction of Luis Batista (Alejandro Hernandez), son of the founder, a heavy marijuana user.
In prison, Dolores learned the art of mage from her fellow inmate and lover, who had both hands amputated (Aaron Mark, the creator, is obviously given to the grotesque). Failing to regain her status as a housewife, she decides to set up a living room in the bat of Empanada Loca. This is where she commits her first murder, this is where Luis discovers a real talent for butchery (until now, he was getting his supplies from outside), this is where the dying establishment suddenly comes to life.
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