Monday, October 8, 2012

The 2nd Annual Brown & Out Theater Festival

By Joe Straw

On the Main Stage, Casa 0101 presents, The 2nd Annual Brown & Out Theater Festival – Celebrating the Latino / A LGBTQ experience.  It's more than a showcase, it's an experience. 

The first thing I noticed is the initial LGBTQ.  Okay, here goes Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, and Q.  What is the Q? I know, or I think I know LGBT, it’s been that way for a long time and then they had to go and add another letter, Q.  Google: LGBTQ.  Answer: “queer or questioning”.  Done. 

If they add another I will go completely mad.

The best thing about Casa 0101 Theatre is the work gets better and better each time I go.  It’s always been surprisingly good but this theatre endeavors to grow significantly by immeasurable increments. It is a testament to Josefina Lopez, the Artistic Director and also Miguel Garcia, the Producer of this festival.

This night is broken into two acts with various dramatic and comedic stories.

The Foundation for a Better Gay Brown Life by Miguel Garcia

Shut away in a back room somewhere is a secret organization that helps LGBTQ Latinos and Latinas come out and accept themselves.  The organization, The Foundation for a Better Gay Brown Life, is run by the saucy administrator, Dr. Valdez (Miriam Peniche).  On this particular night a Campaign Manager (MJ Silva), working for the Republican Party, comes to recruit Gay Latinos for his party. He has a choice from three different gay categories:  The Gay Mex announcer (Andres Rey Solorzano), Grand Master Cholo Guru (Martin Morales) and Gary The Gaytino (Henry Alberto).  Along the way the Campaign Manager discovers some things about himself not to mention being found out by a Gay app on Dr. Valdez’s phone. Nina Harada splendidly directed this play.

Follow the Rainbow by Evelyn Lorena  

This is a story of a quiet young woman, Rainbow Gonzales (Evelyn Lorena) growing up in Alabama and moving to West Hollywood to follow a dream.  What she finds is an unruly boyfriend and later decides this man is not for her.   Walking into a store she meets the “man” of her dreams and follows that rainbow.  Nina Harada also directed.

The Baby Cries by Mario J. Novoa

This is a play about two men, Marco (Andres Rey Solorzano) and David (MJ Silva) living a blissful domestic life, folding laundry, and cleaning house, while neatly tucked away is their baby girl, who cries, all the time, and never lets up. Marco says they need help and wants to call his mother (Miriam Peniche) and his father (Martin Morales).  David doesn’t want that because Marco’s mother hates him because “two men cannot raise children.” Marco calls anyway.  (One note, Mama go to the baby first, make sure everything is okay and then deal with your boys.) This was one of my favorites directed by Corky Dominguez.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:  The Untold Story by Natalie Camunas

Okay, we all know “the story” about Charlie Brown but do we know “the untold story”. Does anyone know has anyone ever had any doubts about Peppermint Pattie (Evelyn Lorena)?  This play takes a satirical look at the backstory of the goings on in the lives of the Peanuts characters. And beside Peppermint Pattie, they are all there, Lucy (Natalie Canumas), Charlie Brown (Andrew Villarreal in a very delightful and unusual characterization), Linus (Henry Alberto) Sally (Blanca M. Melchor), and Marcie (Miriam Peniche) doing what the Peanuts characters does best.  Directed by Hector Rodriguez.

Three Rooms written by Miguel Garcia

Three Rooms written and directed by Miguel Garcia is loosely based on story of the college student that committed suicide when he found out that he was filmed having sex with another man. Ricky (Hector A. Garcia) is the student, while the man he had sex with is Jacob (Andrew Villarreal). The suicide has an effect on the lives of others and while this is in interesting concept with interesting possibilities it slightly misses in execution.  Also in Three Rooms were Evelyn Lorena, Blanca M. Melchor, MJ Silva, and Andres Rey Solorzano as the roommate, John  

The Gay Ghost Whisperer by Josefina Lopez

This short play by Josefina Lopez is very funny and involves two lovers, Gay Latino Ghost Whisperer (Henry Alberto) and Partner (Martin Morales) who are constantly being interrupted in session by gay teens who have committed suicide, who need to give information to the Ghost Whisperer, and be shown the light.  These ghosts are Gay Latino Teen Ghost 1 (Hector A. Garcia), and Gay Latino Teen Ghost 2 (Andrew Villarreal).  The director was Hector Rodriguez.

Miercoles Loves Luna by Monica Palacios

This is a funny short about two lovers Miercoles (Evelyn Lorena) and Luna (Natalie Camunas) having an anniversary party of sorts when jalapenos sort of get in the way.  The play is directed by Corky Dominguez.

Frankie and Johnny by Henry Alberto

Frankie (Andrew Villarreal) and Johnny (MJ Silva) who have a brutal relationship.  Johnny is physically larger and has a problem with liquor.  He is vicious to his one time partner.  They try to manage their affairs and sort out their lives with brutal consequences. This is probably the toughest play to watch of the night but very dramatic with some very fine acting on stage. Directed by Corky Dominguez and a very nice job by the writer, Henry Alberto, who speaks a truth of the realities of relationships that try to work but don’t. (When there is physical violence the injured party should immediately leave and seek help.)   

There are a couple of more shorts The Morning After Part 1: New Hopes by April Ibarra, adapted by Miguel Garcia, and directed by Hector Rodriguez featuring Girl 1 (Blanca M. Melchor) and Girl 2 (Natalie Canumas).  This play is about a Girl who has woken up in a strange apartment and worrying about the partner she has recently slept with.

Forever Young

Forever Young directed by Corky Dominguez is the story of three young LGBTQ men from Jovenes, Inc., a non-profit organization in Boyle Heights, California which provides services and stable housing options to transitional age (18-24 years-old) homeless and displaced youth. The actors words were based on the writings of the people who were a part of Jovenes.  The words were simple and had a quiet uniqueness of their own - thoughts on a page - performed on stage - and trying to find a way to make a trying life,  manageable.  Performed in masks by Henry Alberto, Hector A. Garcia and Andres Rey Solorzano. 

And the other one is very similar The Morning After Part 2: Happy Endings written by Miguel Garcia and directed by Hector Rodriguez with Blanca M. Melchor, Natalie Camunas, Evelyn Lorena, Miriam Peniche, and Martin Morales. It has the same ending as the first but with a lot more people waking up next to each other.  

Casting directors say they have a hard time finding good Latino actors.  Casa 0101 is the place they should come and explore the pickings of those who do really fine work.

Miriam Peniche does some incredible work here playing various roles and giving her all for the cause. Marcie was just delightful. I enjoy her craft every time I come to Casa 0101.

Someone new that I haven’t seen is Martin Morales who did excellent work as Papa and Ground Master Cholo. I certainly got the impression that he lived each moment on stage.

MJ Silva was also a pleasure to watch as Campaign Manager and showed a range with his brutal portrayal as Johnny.  Some really nice work.

The same hold true with Andrew Villarreal.  The Charlie Brown was so unusual it took a while to grasp the character.  I enjoy watching the unusual come to fruition.  Villarreal did some very nice work as Frankie in Frankie and Johnny.

Henry Alberto has a sturdy voice and does some very strong character work on stage. He also wrote Frankie and Johnny.  Gary the “Gaytino” was very convincing as was Linus. Alberto understands the craft and doesn’t appear to be hampered by going all out in character.  Very nice work.  

Evelyn Lorena has a very nice sincerity about her with Rainbow Gonzales and has a lot of fun imitating Peppermint Patty.

Other members of the cast doing fine work are Natalie Camunas, Hector A Garcia, Blanca M. Melchor, and Andres Rey Solorzano.

Corky Dominguez, one of the directors,  does some fantastic work with The Baby Cries and Frankie and Johnny. Nina Harada nicely directs The Foundation for a Better Gay Life.  And Hector Rodriguez  brings a lot of imaginative spirit to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: The Untold Story and The Gay Ghost Whisperer.

This could not be possible without the help of people who are not on stage they are:

Alexander Aguila - Associate Producer
Vimmi Jaggi - Associate Producer
Marco De Leon - Set Designer
Carlos Brown - Costume Designer
Maura McGuinness - Lighting Designer
Matthew Sanchez - Assistant Stage Manager
Bianca Estrada - Stage Manager
Jorge Villanueva - Lighting Operator
Vincent Sanchez - Stage Hand
Mark Kraus - Webmaster
Ed Kreiger - Photographer
Steve Moyer - Public Relations
Emmanuel Deleage - Casa 0101 Executive Director

Run to see this production and take a friend who doesn’t get out much but wants to get out.

Through October 21, 2012.

Reservations:  323-263-7684

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