Great - if you're under 40.

Monday, December 13, 2010

If you understand all the references to pop culture in LEARN TO BE LATINA, you will undoubtedly enjoy it tremendously (as did most of the fairly young audience with whom I shared the experience). Unfortunately, I am far past 40 and consequently missed much of the humor in this script, but that does not mean that I did not appreciate the excellent production values which Ron May brings to Stray Cat Theatre in this modern fairy tale. From the clever set to the superb lighting to the very creative blocking and choreography, May has produced a masterpiece of camp theater.

While the plot line may be fairly predictable and its message no surprise, the strength of this production rests more on the way it is presented than anything else. May has used syncopated precision as a means of telling the tale. The three executive staff members of FAD, otherwise known as the Funky Artist Development record company, are Will, Jill and Bill. These roles are wonderfully played by Joseph Kremer, Joshua Katzker and Kate Haas. They are masters of coordinated physical, as well as vocal action. Automatic is the best word I can use to describe their integrated acting. It is a joy to watch them. They along with ‘Ethical Consultant’ Mary O’Malley and her alter ego puppet (well played by Joanna Carlyle) convince Hanan Mashalani (recent ASU graduate Brittany Roa) to discard her Lebanese heritage and become a Latina so she can succeed in the music business. But to what avail, if it does not bring her happiness? She may have fame and fortune but she wants to embrace the old Shakespearean adage – “To thine own self be true”. And that in a nutshell is the message of the play. But what a nutshell the kernel is packaged in!

Along the way this message is promoted by magnificent lighting created by David Empey which employs several artful flat screen TV’s as an integral part of the design. They almost become characters in the show themselves. And of course, I cannot omit the terrific jabs which May takes at the erstwhile politicians who are responsible for much of the onerous treatment currently given to Arizona’s ethnic minorities. It is biting and clever and truly hits its mark. As the PR for Stray Cat says – this is the show Joe Arpaio and Jan Brewer don’t want you to see. There are no punches pulled and PC goes right out the window. It is an exciting show even if I didn’t get all the references and even if I could not understand some of the accents which Carlyle employed. But the warning is right – if you are easily offended, don’t go to see LEARN TO BE A LATINA. It’s true Stray Cat fare and a hell of a lot of fun.