Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review – Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City (New York International Fringe Festival, Tall Hispanic-Short Hispanic Productions)

Review by Erin Winebark

Two drunk white girls, a couple of old Jewish ladies, and a tranny prostitute walk into a bar . . . though this would make a great set-up for a joke, it’s really a small sampling of the characters found in Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City. This two-woman show features twenty different characters in twelve interrelated scenes and monologues written and played by Lorena Diaz (“the tall one”) and Wendy Mateo (“the short one”). Both actresses are Hispanic women, but the characters they portray span all ages, genders, and ethnic stereotypes, and their writing pokes fun at every race equally.

In the opening scene, we meet two old Jewish ladies at a restaurant, interrogating their waitress in an attempt to get some Splenda since one left her baggie full of it at home.

“You speak Mexican?” she asks the waitress with “exotic-looking features.”

“No, they speak SPAINISH in Mexico,” corrects her friend. “Do you speak Spainish?”

Though, I, personally, do not speak Spainish, my favorite line of the whole show was spoken of a certain blonde socialite in a scene where two Latina housekeepers seemed to be discussing American celebrities: “Ella es una puta!” Una puta, indeed.

Both Diaz and Mateo give strong, funny performances. Diaz, in particular, transitions seamlessly through widely diverse characters - from a homeless man, to an aging Hispanic man, to a vibrant Latina single mom. Her physicalizations are dead-on, and she fully transforms into the gender and race she portrays at any given time — no easy feat given the minimal production values and lack of any kind of costume or set change. Mateo easily inhabits the worlds of the scenes, and fully commits to each action. In one of the funniest moments, her drunken stupor is so convincing that it elicited more than a few laughs from the audience.

Renata Sheppard’s choreography, along with an upbeat soundtrack and slight changes in lighting, serve as transitions. Though some of these transitions last a bit longer than necessary, they allow the viewer to see the relationships which exist from scene to scene. In one scene, we meet a tranny prostitute talking to a “white girl” on her corner, and as the scene progresses we realize that the white girl is actually one of the drunk girls from an earlier scene. This happens multiple times throughout the show, and is a rather brilliant way to show each side to the story. Though it’s clear that the show originated out of improvisation, Charna Halpern’s direction focuses the characters and action and gives the scripted show a casual, off-the-cuff feel.

People in the City is a comedy, but by the end, it turns into comedy with a message: everyone has a story, and we’re all connected through common experience, even when we think we have nothing in common. Or at least, that’s what I got out of it, though admittedly, my Mexican is a little rusty.

Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City
Written by Lorena Diaz & Wendy Mateo
Directed by Charna Halpern
Choreography by Renata Sheppard
Production Manager: Stephanie Acosta

Featuring: Lorena Diaz and Wendy Mateo

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