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A CurtainUp Review
Latinologues: Chile Con Comedy
By Jana J. Monji
Rick Najera's Latinologues: Chile Con Comedy embraces Latino stereotypes and gives them a sardonic twist. In its current incarnation at Coronet Theatre, this collection of monologues and satirical scenes about the Latino experience zips by, its cast of illegalswill have you howling with laughter.

At the performance reviewed (Najera states at the end that the skits change from night to night) our first guide in our journey into the psyche of the Latino was Joseph Perez Bertot as the head dishwasher at one of the Acapulco chain restaurants. He found the best way to get a free trip so a sunny Mexican resort town was to be deported twice, first by the INS and then by the Mexican authorities.

Najera, who also directs, appears as two coconut Latinos. You know the kind -- brown on the outside but white on the inside. First he's a redneck Latino border patrol officer who puts the pepper spray to Jose and assures the audience that Cubans are just "Mexicans with boats." Najera also plays an ever-so-swishy born-again Latino movie industry executive who wants to be supportive of Latino writers. His performance suggests some hysterical rip-offs of megahit movies. Instead of the Titanic, why not have Cubans on a raft with a slow leak and call it Titanico?

But this show offers more than variations of machismo. With a shrill voice that could drill through concrete, Monica Ortiz plays the "virgin of the Bronx" who claims she had a "divine interruption". She's not ashamed of being pregnant and unmarried. Her visitation was beautiful though short and then the guy just vanished so he must be an angel. Neither is everything played for laughs. Paul Saucido gives a poignant monologue about a coat and how it reminds him of his father. Ortiz as a Cuban prostitute trying to grab some American dollars transforms the meaning of "Cuba libre" from socio-political to sadly willing to give her favors for free.

Since no stereotype collection can be complete without a gun-toting gang-banger, a drug lord and angry politically aware students we have Tricia Cruz, slathered in makeup for glow-in-the-dark eyes and lips as Miss East Los Angeles. Pretty as a girl with a gun who isn't quite ready to give up her reign to the new queen. There's also drug lord (Najera) to insist that he's a good man, even though he might have had the bishop of Guadalajara killed.

Probably the weakest skit is the final one in which Latino students are .angry but not confused. They might have gotten a "C" in Spanish, but that stands for Chicano. Najera and Saucido were cracking up too much on stage for this to really work, but at the end of this 90-minute show no one cared? The audience was already crying with laughter.

LATINOLOGUES: Chile Con Comedy
Written and directed by Rick Najera
Assistant director: Joseph Perez Bertot
Cast: Rick Najera, Joseph Perez Bertot, Amanda Gunderson, Monica Ortiz, Tricia Cruz, Paul Saucido
Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. No intermission.
Latinologues: , Coronet Studio Theatre, 366 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 657-7377.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends July 26. $20. Review of June 20 performance.
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