Tuesday, November 6, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 54



Najera's monologues slowed by weak acting

By Icess Fernandez
Daily Cougar Staff

The only thing better than watching Rick Najera's latest production is staying home and watching the season premieres of Fox's Monday night line-up.

Virgins, Whores, Long-Suffering Barrio Mothers, and the Men Who Made Them That Way isn't a play, it's a collection of monologues written and
directed by Rick Najera. Elena Sotomayor also joined him on stage to play the female monologues.

The couple performed at the Alley Theatre. The Alley and Arte Publico Press presented this production.

Najera is a genius when it comes to writing and performing, but this latest collection failed to bring out the style to which his audiences are accustomed.

Basically, if you've seen Najera's Latinologues, you've seen this show and you've seen it performed better.

The show kicks off with one of Najera's familiar characters, Mexican Moses. The house lights dim and an off-stage voice roars with the story of Mexican
Moses. A Mexican raised by Republicans in Orange County, Calif., Moses is destined to save his people, even the small Guatemalans and boastful

From then on the real jewels of belly-busting comedy are few and far between. Najera's characters evoke mere chuckles, not laughs. However, some of
the more developed characters completely deliver the principals of comedy timing, timing, and timing.

For example, Buford Gomez, the successful tyrant of border patrol, makes two appearances during the night.

He's dressed in his dirty green jacket and matching cap, and his voice is weighted down by a heavy Texas accent. The character's opening joke
rumbles through the crowd. He pauses and waits for the roar to die down just enough to do it again. This character's success was all in the timing.

Not everything in this production was extracted from Latinologues; there are some new characters from Najera's workshop.

For example, the Latino movie producer who says he's Latino and nothing else also made two appearances during the production. Swearing his next
big movie Cortez and Montezuma will be a big hit, he has a big awakening when it's not.

Funny is not the word for this character. He was hilarious. Everything was perfect with the character and the performance was flawless.

Not so flawless to watch is Elena Sotomayor, who performs all the female monologues written by Najera. She had no stage presence and very little
command of the audience.

Watching Sotomayor delivering her lines was like watching a 5-year old playing in the mirror: She's doing something, but you're not sure what.

Her opening monologue had potential. It started off funny, but when she started to speak, the lines fell flat and the atmosphere created by Najera's
comical characters at the beginning of the show evaporated.

It was like eating a piece of cake that looks delicious but tastes sour. The bitter disappointment from her first monologue tainted the rest of the evening's

To add insult to injury, her performance of "Cuba Libre" looked like a high school student competing in a drama competition. The monologue, which is
about a Cuban prostitute talking to an American about being free, is a diamond of a piece.

The monologue was well written but not well delivered. Maria Acosta, an actor who performed this piece before in Houston during a tour of
Latinologues two years ago, molds the words and makes them come alive. Sotomayor does the opposite and makes the audience, especially those
who have seen this piece done before, wince with pain.

The only believable and painless monologue Sotomayor delivers is about an ex-novela diva married to a drug lord. She stands on the right side of the
stage in a chic black ensemble and delivers her lines true to character.

She is uncommonly funny in this role and has her comic timing down to a science. Unfortunately, it was her last performance of the evening.

Najera is best known for his book Pain of the Macho and his writing on hit television shows, including In Living Color, Culture Clash and The Robert
Townsend Show.

Elena Sotomayor has performed in a stage production of Bye Bye Birdie and in several television and stage shows.

Najera's writing and creativity only sparkled here; it didn't shine like in his other productions. If you've seen Latinologues, skip this production at the
Alley and watch Ally McBeal instead.

Virgins, Whores, Long-Suffering Barrio Mothers, and the Men Who Made Them That Way

** (out f five stars)

Director: Rick Najera

Alley Theatre

615 Texas Ave.

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