He cites the Haiti earthquake of 2010 as probably the biggest change his script has seen. "I had a show a month after that happened, so my Haitian character obviously had to mention it. And he still talks about it because two years later, thousands are still homeless, and that's not headline news right now."
The actual NE Second Avenue has changed aesthetically in the past ten years too. Empty lots filled with shards of broken beer bottles and patches of dried grass have been replaced by high-rises and condos; small shops' walls have been painted with striking murals by local artists; and thrift stores that sell $2 VHS tapes have been replaced by, well, thrift stores that sell $3 DVDs. Places such as Artopia, Gym by Diego Buendia, the S&S Diner, and the 18th Street Café, with its crab sandwich specials, make up the new avenue.
Teo Castellanos channels a Puerto Rican small-time drug dealer in NE 2nd Avenue.
NE 2nd Avenue: By Teo Castellanos. Directed by Michael Garces. January 19 through 21 at the Adrienne Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $35.
But the people are the same. Real jitney driver Remy and his passengers are a testament to that. He gave me another friendly grin, saying, "OK, OK, my friend!" as I exited his van on NE 16th Street and he drove his passengers into the gray urban canyons of downtown Miami.
"Some of the characters in the play are connected," Castellanos says. "They either know each other as friends or they're related."
But as my real jitney ride down NE Second Avenue and Castellanos's fictitious jitney ride onstage will tell you, we're all related even if we're not blood. We all have a story to tell. NE 2nd Avenue shows us how different yet how similar Miamians are. Each one of us has a story to tell. It's altogether moving, tragic, funny, and real.