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
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
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
615 Texas Ave.