Reviewed by Deborah Klugman
Los Angeles Theatre Center
Through May 17
Let’s start by mentioning the praiseworthy elements in this problematic piece, presented by Teatro Luna, an all-Latina company out of Chicago.
First, its intent: to give voice to the sexual and emotional lives of modern women, especially Latina youth. Second, the show, which is directed by Alexandra Meda, has intriguing production values, in particular Yee Eun Nam’s imaginative videography which adds both wit and dimension to the show. Lighting designer Pablo Santiago also contributes some striking effects, illuminating the faces of the performers so at times they are half in light and half in darkness.
The piece, developed by company member Abigail Vega (who counsels us early on that this is an “experience” rather than a play) is compiled from the writings of 33 contributors. Some of the stories would be pertinent in any generation or culture: For example, a young woman dates an aggressive domineering man who violates her personhood. He makes her uncomfortable and she wants to be rid of him, but her mom – rendered by a shrill voiceover and multiple caricatures of a shrewish person projected onto the back wall – keeps insisting he’s a terrific guy.
Other segments are specific to our day and age: A gal hooks up with someone she thinks is Mr. Wonderful, only to be abjectly humiliated when he posts naked photos of her that go viral. (This sequence also was elaborated on with a terrific animated video that helped drive the point home.)
And a monologue telling the too familiar story of a victim of physical abuse is counterbalanced by a jaunty adventuress who discourses on the pleasure she derives from giving head.
My experience of this piece was sabotaged by several factors: the production’s oddly askew staging, which positioned the main playing area on a left diagonal to the entire audience and personally hampered my line of vision (graphics on the floor were impossible to read) and the pulsating background music whose volume sometimes overwhelmed the performances, some of which were more assured than others.
The integration of patronizing theater games was also a negative: These consisted of calling on members of the audience to engage in word association exercises, and to guess the order in which the performers had lost their virginity. A break was taken midway so that those who wished might exit to the lobby for drinks. The rest of us sat there and waited until they returned.
All told, including the lengthy period the audience waited before the show actually began, and the extended introduction delivered by Ms. Vega, a show billed as 70 minutes long took two full hours.
Some sequences in this uneven spectacle have power and punch but they were diluted the night I attended by these and other directorial choices.
Teatro Luna at Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring Street, downtown; Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.; Fri.-Sat., 9:30 p.m.; through May 17. (866) 811-4111.