How thick-skinned are you? The answer to that question may be what determines how much you like Mixed Blood Theatre's most recent production, "Learn to be Latina." The farce sends up pretty much everyone for pretty much everything, with pervasive sexual content and swearing.
"Learn to be Latina" at Mixed Blood Theatre Company
Here's Mixed Blood's description of the show:
The aspiring Hanan is hot, but FAD Records thinks she's unmarketable because she's Lebanese. But if the budding diva can learn to think, sound, and act like the next J.Lo, FAD reasons she can "keep the West and forget the rest." Desperate for fame, Hanan surrenders her ethnic identity for Latin pop stardom in this satirical rags-to-riches allegory. Replete with a dominatrix ethnic consultant, a scene-stealing bilingual hand puppet, and wild song and dance numbers, Learn To Be Latina is ultimately a coming out tale with heart.
Some critics say they found the show offensive at times, while others were left wanting for more...
Hilariously offensive doesn't even begin to cover Mixed Blood Theatre's newest production, Learn to be Latina. This high-energy satire by playwright Enrique Uruela doesn't hold anything back as it pummels the lines of appropriateness concerning race, sexuality, and gender. That brashness is precisely what makes this play is so much fun.
Director Valdez keeps everything moving at a madcap clip as he brings prejudices to the fore, and the vignettes are often humorous in their daring context. When the label bosses try to explain to Hanan why she can't be herself, one of them circles like an airplane, arms outstretched, and knocks over the other two a la the Twin Towers. At one point, as Hanan is taking lessons from Mary, babies are thrown at her from every angle. Both scenes push to the edge of propriety in a show that is part farce, part sex comedy and all extended sketch comedy.
Aditi Kapil in Learn to be Latina at Mixed Blood Theatre
In the end, I think Urueta could have ramped up the pressure even more. I'm hard to offend -- especially when most of the "wrong" comes from characters who are clearly nuts -- and I left wanting even more of this crazy world.
As a Lebanese-American myself, I groaned at the terrorist, camel jockey jokes along with the rest of the audience but appreciated the challenge of facing the often hilarious hypocrisy of political correctness even while desiring to hold on to ethnic identities in our homogenized American pop culture and globalized society. In that regard, the play's satire deals not only with the specificity of learning to be Latina, but also speaks to more general concerns of identity and belonging.
Hope Cervantes and Jamie Elvey in Learn to be Latina at Mixed Blood Theatre
This is the kind of show that might especially appeal to those who spend more time in front of the TV set than facing a stage - and combined with Mixed Theatre's "Radical Hospitality" no-cost admission option, it could even draw in theater virgins. They won't leave as innocent as they arrived, but perhaps with a smile.
I'm worried about Mixed Blood; they have now presented two vapid, poorly constructed and unfunny farces in a row. This is the theater that produced the magisterial Ruined and the Kapil's terrific and pyrotechnic Agnes Under The Big Top. They will shortly announce their 12-13 season. Let's hope they get themselves back on track.
"Learn to be Latina" runs through May 13 at Mixed Blood Theatre. Have you seen the show? If so, what did you think? Share your review in the comments section.