Who wants a supersonic plane? All we want is more Latino Odyssey
Something eerie happened as I was reviewing Jump-Start's Latino Odyssey: Space, the Final Frontera over the past two weekends. It wasn't that I walked in on an argument over a sculpture of female masturbation in Jump-Start's entrance ("That is a bleeding p***y"), or found myself lip-synching "Ground Control to Major Tom" into my pen as the house lights dimmed - all true, by the way. No, I had fun watching theatre.
That's right, fun. What a concept!
I'm not going to tell you that the three-episode telenovela-style Latino Odyssey is destined for Broadway, but I will say this: You won't want to kill yourself halfway through it, as you may be tempted to in a sub-par production of, say, Uncle Vanya.
A pot-smoking Vietnam vet, a gossiping drama queen, an ex-Kelly Air Force Base jet-engine mechanic, a lesbian Brown University graduate, a virgin who sells porn: These are the Lunas, the quirky, loving Latino family at the center of Latino Odyssey.
Space, the final frontera
8pm Fri-Sat, 4pm Sun
Through Mar 26
$12 adult; $9 student
108 Blue Star
After winning a contest to be the first Latino family in space, the Lunas must decide whether to take that "giant leap for mankind." But once aboard the spaceship, the family grapples with claustrophobia, an irritating journalist, M.E.T.I.C.H.E. (imagine a sassy, less evil HAL 2000) and the fact that, sorry folks, there are no Pollo Locos or Whataburgers in space.
In the midst of the fun, Latino Odyssey, a production of El Mundo Baking Co. and the sequel to The Race for Space, confronts racism, Affirmative Action, the inaccuracy of Fox News, and the Bracero program.
The performances were bang-on melodrama. Max Parilla and Janie Sauceda were memorably over-the-top as Nacho Guerrero and Celeste Luna, respectively. Michael Avila as Rey Luna reminded me a little of my father, also an ex-Kelly mechanic, and Amalia Ortiz brought sensitivity and wisdom to the character of Sol Luna.
But some things didn't translate. And, no, I'm not referring to the fact that I should have brushed up on my Spanish before I saw Latino Odyssey. Actually, the Spanglish wasn't too confusing, even for a güera like me. What I'm referring to is the awkwardness of taking a format invented for television, like the telenovela, and successfully transferring it to the stage.
"Movies show. Theater tells," a drama professor of mine used to say. He was describing the amazing control a movie or television director has over whom and what his audience is looking at in a particular moment, whereas on the stage, the audience has a choice to look anywhere at any moment, so there is a burden on the actor to make what he or she is doing interesting and relevant pretty much all of the time. Despite the well-designed set - especially in episodes 2 and 3, where I loved the glittering Aztec-inspired space-station art - at times I just wanted to be told where to look.
Otherwise, the only other thing Latino Odyssey lacked was a real ending. To be continued? I'll keep my fingers crossed.