“Los Otros” Dealing with Prejudices

Julio Monge in the lead role as "The Man"

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

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