Sunday, October 13, 2013

Brown & Out 3 by Various Writers

By Joe Straw

Casa 0101 presents Brown & Out 3, the third annual Brown and Out theater festival celebrating the Latino/A LGBTQ Experience in Boyle Heights. It fittingly opened on National Coming Out Day, October 11, and runs through November 3, 2013.

This year’s festival features work by various artists and is stronger than Brown and Out 2, which I had the pleasure to attend. The written work features players who give incredible performances as directors Nina Harada and Martin Morales ably guide those performers.  Miguel Garcia and Sophia Sanchez are the producers of this fine event.   

LGBTQ by Uvaldo Baltazar and Arriola Baltazar

Somebody’s been watching too many Star Trek episodes. 

LGBTQ is a play similar in vein when somewhere, off into the future, Captain Lupe Lopez (Miriam Peniche) confines Lieutenant Armando Aguila (Jose A. Garcia) for calling Ensign Miguel Molina (MJ Silva) a faggot.  It seems Armando wants to procreate more than the aliens so that the human race survives and multiplies. 

But while Armando is thinking about his detention, he is visited by Q (Andres Rey Solorzano), a wild and cracked space alien, who turns Armando into a gay man to help him explore the other side of his sexuality. Q watches in delight as the actions play out in front of him, like in a movie theater complete with popcorn.  

LGBTQ by Uvaldo Baltazar and Arriola Baltazar (Baltazar & Baltazar) is a wonderful short play.  It is smart, funny, with wonderful characters, and moves along marvelously.  The play loses momentum with a slight history lesson but picks up steam again as it moves toward its pleasing conclusion.  This is a marvelous piece of written work and one that recognizes Baltazar and Baltazar as a dynamic writing team. (Uvaldo Baltazar was walking around in a black cape this night and seemed to be having the time of his life.)

Andres Rey Solorzano plays Q and is marvelous in the role. There is so much delightful work going on with this character, it’s as if you were watching an old Warner Bros. cartoon complete with bullhorn.  He is captivating to watch and enormously funny!

Miriam Peniche plays Captain Lupe Lopez and needs to find something unique in this character to make her choices more creative.

Jose A. Garcia as Lieutenant Armando Aguila also does some really fine work. He is very fluid on stage and has a wonderful stage presence.  

MJ Silva plays Ensign Miguel Molina and again is little low key.  More is going on with this character that we are not getting, such as trepidation, anticipation, and a stronger creative objective.

Martin Morales, the director, shows us a strong hand with his directing skills.  I’ve seen his work as an actor and his directing proficiencies are top notched.

Sunday Brunch by Rosa Maria Rodriguez

Sunday Brunch by Rosa Maria Rodriguez and directed by Martin Morales tells the story of Lydia (Narina Noelle) who is about to tell her mother (Miriam Peniche) that she is in love with Sammy (Lauren Ballesteros).  She Skypes with her brother Victor (Jaime Barcelon) to get his reaction and her brother wishes her the best of luck.

Miriam Peniche is fantastic as the mother.  When she walks through the door, the audience howled with laughter.  She does not have a wasted movement on stage.  

Karina Noelle as Lydia does a fine job but really needs to find the core of this character, the thing that makes her unique, in this maybe not so unique situation.  

Lauren Ballesteros plays Sammy, the girlfriend, given the circumstances of this multi-dimensional character; one believes there is more to define the character.  The relationship between the brother and the mother needs more bite, literally speaking. Her performance is fine but lacks a strong conflict.

Jaime Barcelon as Victor, the brother, can go farther in his choices.

Again, Martin Morales, the director, does an excellent job.

Whittier Blvd by Michael Patrick Spillers

Whittier Blvd by Michael Patrick Spiller and directed by Martin Morales. This is the story about a father, Will (Jose A. Garcia) and his 17-year-old daughter Vic (Masha Mendieta), a singing duo, living on Whittier Blvd when the daughter wants to break up the act in more ways than one.  Vic wants to turn her life into a man and she needs one thing from her father in order for that to happen.

“You’re my daughter, miracle, baby girl.” – Will

This play was a little off focused and I’m not sure if it was the direction by Martin Morales, the acting, or the writing. I know that Vic needs one thing:  She needs to get her father to sign the papers so she can get hormone injections.  It’s a very simple objective. The father needs to convince his daughter not turn herself into a man.   So, the focus is lost from the moment Vic walks on stage when it appears that neither one is moving in that direction. 

This beautifully written work by Michael Patrick Spillers calls for a strong emotional objective that I believe the actors will find. The “clown costume” line is confusing when Vic comes in wearing – clown makeup? – which is actually a bruise. The writing is not specific to the two on stage veering off to the scene in the bar and “Hector” who is gone. There are too many things taking us away from a very simple story that needs an enhancement.  

Los Novios by Jaime Mayorquin

Los Novios (The Bride and Groom) by Jaime Mayorquin is the story of two young gay men in love, in their apartment, on the eve of a wedding.  Tomas (Jaime Barcelon) repeatedly asks his partner, Armando (Andres Rey Solorzano) if he is ready to do this.  And something is going on, in the background, which is upsetting to both of them. Something about this marriage has them both up in arms.

Tomas’ dad, Mr. Reyes (Jose A. Garcia), comes in to speak to Armando, says he doesn’t approve, but his wife (Lauren Ballesteros) and his daughter (Monica O’Malley de Castillo) both love him, so: What the heck.  And then Mr. Reyes slaps Armando to seal the deal.

Jose A. Garcia is wonderful as Mr. Reyes who manages to bring out a very unique and driven character.

Jaime Barcelon as Tomas requires a bit more seasoning in this role as this character repeatedly stuffs clothes into his bag without purpose.  This role requires a stronger relationship with Armando, with his dad, mother, and sister. When Barcelon settles down, he will find the core of his character.

Laren Ballesteros does fine work as Mrs. Reyes as well as Monica O’Malley de Castillo as Teresa.

Nicely written by Jaime Mayorquin but a bit confusing this night under Nina Harada direction.  There are moments that do not get to the point and require definition.  The characters meander on stage without meaning or purpose.  Also this play has a rich physical life, but the emotional life of the two main characters doesn’t connect leaving us with a play that isn’t fully developed but has possibilities as things fall into place.

Prom by Monica Palacios

Prom by Monica Palacios is a wonderful play and directed by Nina Harada about a lesbian teen (Karina Noelle) wanting to come to her prom with her female date (Masha Mendieta) when she goes in front of the school board (MJ Silva) to plead her case. 

MJ Silva is wonderful as School Board complete with video montage appearing as a Satan-like creature that insists Lesbian teen is doing is wrong in coming to the board with her “homosexual agenda”.

Karina Noelle as Lesbian Teen pleads her case with a calm and casual flair, bouncing off the criticism, leveled at her.

Also featured are Masha Mendieta as Girlfriend, Monica O’Malley de Castillo as Mom and Jose A. Garcia as Dad.

This is Nina Harada’s best work of the night.

Safe by Miguel Garcia

Safe written by Miguel Garcia and directed by Nina Harada is the story of a boy, Gabriel (Andres Rey Solorzano) who could not adequately play baseball according to the requirements of his demanding and sometimes abusive father.

“When I was 8 years old, I broke my father’s heart.”

Gabriel recounts how his father tested him through a lesson in baseball, labeled him different, attempted to teach him to hit the ball, and when he couldn’t hit it, his father hit him with the bat.  It is what’s happened in his life that led to more troubling times of not playing safe.

And not playing it safe got him into a lot of trouble, when he started abusing alcohol, meth, becoming HIV positive, and not taking his medication until he was stabilized in the intensive care unit.

Nina Harada directs with an able hand but there is more in the Miguel Garcia’s material that needs work. Safe refers to many things in this young man’s life and not only about baseball.

Happy and Gay by Mary Steelsmith

Happy and Gay is a wonderful play cleverly written by Mary Steelsmith and nicely directed by Martin Morales with wonderful performance by Monica O’Malley de Castillo and Miriam Peniche.

This is the play of two women Betty (Monica O’Malley de Castillo) and Veronica (Miriam Peniche) who are preparing a room for a same sex couple’s wedding.  And while the two are dressing the room for the celebration they gossip about the couple, the minister, and finally their own feelings for each other.

Actually, it is this performance, where Monica O’Malley de Castillo just soars as she breaths incredible life into the character of Betty who is slightly daffy and doesn’t know the difference between the word lesbians and lesbanese.

Miriam Peniche also does a fantastic job as Veronica.

Crazy by Natalie Camunas

Crazy written by Natalie Camunas and directed by Nina Harada is a play about a woman E (Masha Mendieta) who falls in love with Mitch (Lauren Ballesteros) when she sees her at a bar in Los Angeles.  Both are young, not really sure what they want to do, but know there is an attraction.

Crazy lacks conflict and one is not really sure what the play is about.  But it gives us a chance to have everyone on stage, for a few more moments, to remind us of who we have seen on this night.

Josefina Lopez is Casa 0101 Artistic Director and Emmanuel Delealgue is Casa 0101 Executive Director.

Associate Producers:  Vimmi Jagi, Helen Barriere, Gina Linn Espinoza
Casa 0101 Technical Director:  Sohail e. Najafi
Lighting Design:  Maura McGuinness
Set Design:  Cesar Holguin
Monica Hernandez:  Costume Design
Kyle Peek:  Make-up Artist
Vincent Sanchez:  Facilities Manager
Matthew Sanchez:  Production Stage Manager/Props Master
Bianca Estrada:  Assistant Stage Manager/Sound Operator
Estibaliz Giron:  Backstage Manager
Jorge Villanueva:  Lighting Designer
Mark Kraus:  Webmaster
Soap Design Co.: Graphic Design (Program/Banner)
MJ Silva:  Graphic Design (Postcard)
Ed Krieger:  Production Photographer
Steve Moyer Public Relations:  Press Representative

Run! Run! And take someone who enjoys the gay Latino experience.

Reservations:  323-263-7684

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