Play about Lucero's death raises questions

Margarita Espada, center, of Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja performs Margarita Espada, center, of Teatro Experimental Yerbabruja performs in the play "What Killed Marcelo Lucero" at Wyandanch High Scool. (March 25, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

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A play about the killing of Marcelo Lucero will be staged Tuesday for the first time in Patchogue, where it happened and which remains deeply scarred by the tragedy.

"What Killed Marcelo Lucero?" is a two-part event: The play depicts the 2008 assault and stabbing death of Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant, in Patchogue by a group of high schoolers. Ringleader Jeffrey Conroy, now 20, was found guilty of first-degree manslaughter as a hate crime and is serving a 25-year prison sentence. The slaying briefly divided the community and led residents to examine the Latino immigration issue.

Following the free 6:30 p.m. show at the D'Ecclesiis Auditorium of St. Joseph's College, the audience is invited to speak with playwright Margarita Espada.

It is not the kind of reminder that Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri was hoping for.

"To do a depiction of it all over again in Patchogue, I just find it disheartening for the community," Pontieri said. He was unsure whether he would attend the performance, which he has seen at other venues.

"I've lived it so closely and it was such a part of the life of the community over the last three years -- to look at it from this perspective of the tragedy that happened and not to look at where we are today, that's the part I find bothersome," he said. "This is about what happened, not what has happened."

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Since Lucero's slaying, an intersection near where he was killed was renamed "Unity Place" and a tree inside the LIRR station honors Lucero.

Espada said she searched on and off for a year for a venue in Patchogue, even as the performance ran in neighboring Suffolk County communities.

"With the play, we tried different venues and there was not support for it," Espada said, adding she was told, "They want to heal; they want to move the page forward.

"They don't exactly say they don't want it, but they feel the community was targeted too much," she said.

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One place she approached was the Congregational Church of Patchogue, which had hosted Lucero's funeral and several community gatherings after the murder. The church initially agreed, but later retracted its offer, the Rev. Dwight Wolter said.

"Our church council felt it was time for other churches or other places to pick up the ball a bit," said Wolter.

One person who won't be at the play is Lucero's brother Joselo Lucero, who has other plans. "Some places can be really open and some places want to forget what happened," he said.

He hasn't seen the play yet but couldn't fathom why it had trouble finding a home. "I don't know what is the reason," he said. "I'm a little disappointed."

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