Sunday, December 5, 2010

A blistering but hysterical tongue-in-cheek attack on America’s often hypocritical treatment of cultural differences and ethnic acceptance is brilliantly etched in playwright Enrique Urueta’s “Learn to be Latina.” Add to Urueta’s politically pointed piece Stray Cat Theatre’s superbly funny production under Ron May’s expert madcap direction and you have a hit.

To be sure, not every theatergoer should head for “Learn to be Latina.” If you are easily offended or you object to raunchy and graphic language, don’t go. If the pretensions of society’s treatment of equality amuses, raucous laughter is guaranteed. The hilarious dialogue is delivered with expert comic timing by a cast who run wild with the outlandish mockery and stupidity of corporate actions.

The play’s wacky premise has probably occurred numerous times. In the offices of FAD Records, three corporate executives spout the company line while striving to be as vanilla as possible with no weirdness. They interview Hanan, a strong singer who has potential to be the next pop music star. When Hanan reveals she’s an American-Lebanese, these marketers see potential if Hanan can be Latina. Ethnic consultant Mary O’Malley takes on the challenge of falsifying Hanan’s background. Give Mary three months and she can turn the singer into the next ethnic phenomenon.

Mary drags out bizarre clichés while bantering ethnic slams but this forceful woman succeeds. Hanan’s journey is a laugh-a-minute joke fest. Dropped into the play are pointed jabs at gays that says something truthful about homophobia.

May has gathered a fine cast. As the pushy, dominating, overbearing, and bossy Mary, Johanna Carlisle has a merry field day throwing around delicious comic slurs with impeccable timing and insulting innuendo. In addition to Mary, Carlisle essays two other divergent stereotypical roles with slapstick distinction.

Brittany Roa looks appropriately stupefied as Hanan and gives her ethnic transformation nice comic twists until the character can’t maintain the silly façade. Joseph Kremer, Kate Haas, and Joshua Katzker are a precision team as the peculiar corporate executives with enough foibles to fill endless books. Raven Woessner is the sedate but true Hispanic who is treated terribly by the others.

May’s zippy staging makes the most of every comic moment and he uses his wonderful cast perfectly. The marvelous set is enhanced by high quality multi-media video effects that add pointed merriment.

“Learn to be Latina” is a wicked delight for the right audience. It continues through December 18. For tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-820-8022 or buy online at

Grade: A