Runs at the Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum Til July 1st
Reviewed by Dale Reynolds, Senior Arts Critic
Los Otros (The Others) is a lovely little two-act chamber play with music, enjoying its world premiere at the venerable Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. A one act extended version of an original playlette that was performed last year in New York City, with book and lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and a score by Michael John LaChiusa, under the more-than-able direction of Graciela Daniele, the newer version makes for a unique and telling evening of theatre.
The two one-acts, performed without an intermission, deal with prejudice towards those who do not fit a “norm” and how people learn to exist in and around it.
Writer Fitzhugh suffered from “Okie” prejudice when her family moved to L.A.; LaChiusa suffered from being Italian-American, as well as being gay; Daniele was born in Argentina and found racist attitudes about her “latina-ness” when she came here as a young adult. Those are the attitudes that pervade and illuminate their show, a gentle examination of being an outsider in a multi-cultural Southern California.
The Woman (Michele Pawk), in her mid-40s, talks about her love of the Mexican-American culture, beginning as an eleven-year-old living in a poor neighborhood in the economically-disadvantaged community of National City, south of San Diego. The Man (Julio Monge), 75 when we meet him, but around 40 for the balance of the play, is a gay recluse. The show spans approximately seventy years of SoCal history, particularly from a Latino perspective. The Man a free-spirit and The Woman a sensitive soul, find commonality in a play that is colored with authenticity of period and site.
This is a show wherein all the elements –bar none– work together. The Latin-flavored songs, the unit-set (designed by Christopher Barreca) that has glory painted all over it, the costumes of Ann Hould Ward, the actors and the direction, all combine to give us a sweet and meaningful evening of theatre.
LaChiusa’s music encompases the 1940s swing era, to contemporary pop-sound, with the traditional Mexican mariachi melody underscoring the action – all of it melodic. The show is unusual in style, but chamber-musicals are not new to us, and this production takes it a bit further in development. No chorus numbers, no massive choreography, no histrionics, just simple pleasures, nicely done by actors who can sing, and a show that will land softly in your memory-well.
Los Otros runs at the Mark Taper Forum at 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles til July 1st. For more info or to purchase tickets to go: http://www.centertheatregroup.org/land/losotros-new.htm or (213) 972-7353