Review of “The Brown & Out Theater Festival”

Antonio X. Garcia October 14, 2012 7
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After a successful inaugural run in 2011, Casa 0101 Theater in one of L.A.’s most historic neighborhoods, Boyle Heights, is proud to bring us the second installment of the newly established Brown & Out Theater Festival. Citing the high rates of LGBTQ youth bullying and teen suicides, the B&O production team made it a priority to address these issues head-on. “Given the rise of LGBTQ youth committing suicide due to increased bullying and cyber-bullying, it became very important to present a Theater Festival that would inspire audiences, artists and youth to ‘live brown, out and proud,” stated producer Miguel Garcia. And to prove this point, B&O organizers unleashed a smorgasbord of short plays… 11 to be exact… sandwiched in a two hour-plus production. Each play has it’s own unique flare that tackles various topics within the “brown” LGBTQ community. The following reviews are just a sample of what a theater goer has to  look forward to at this years innovative festival.

The festival starts off with the play “The Foundation for a Better Gay Brown Life” which immediately tackles a controversial subject: Gay Latino Republicans. Doctor Valdez (played by Miriam Peniche) is approached by a closeted Republican campaign manager (played by MJ Silva) who is on a quest to find an acceptable Gay Latino face for the GOP. As the play progresses, Dr. Valdez plays an instrumental yet indirect part in allowing the campaign manager to accept his true sexuality by exposing him to the beauty of being openly gay and proud. Although the play was entertaining and comical most of the time, the force that established itself for the remainder of the evening was the acting ability of Miriam Peniche. More on her later.

One play in particular that stood out was the heartfelt “The Baby Cries,” written by Mario Novoa and directed by Corky Dominguez. Excited upon the arrival of their newborn daughter, Gay couple Marco (Andres Rey Solorzano) and David (Silva) invite Marco’s socially conservative and religious parents over so that they can meet their newest grandchild and get pointers on how to calm the infant down when she acts up. Being as how the Latino culture is rooted with strict religious principles, the thought of having a Gay son in a same-sex relationship, and raising a child is most definitely a hard pill to swallow for Marco’s mama (played brilliantly by Peniche). The play tugged at the audience’s heart strings when Marco, quivering from nerves and fear about how his parents would react, was comforted by his partner David and was reminded that everything would be ok. The chemistry between these two was dynamic and the love portrayed on stage was electric. Marco’s parents were equally amazing in this production. Although Marco’s mother had a more difficult time in accepting her son’s new family, his father (played by Martin Morales)  took a more open-minded approach and was eager to embrace his new grandchild. The four characters lit up the stage and dazzled the audience as they were rewarded with a thunderous applause.

The festival features other gay and lesbian relationships such as the touching “Miercoles and Luna,” written by Monica Palacios. Miercoles (Evelyn Lorena) and Luna (Natalie Camunas) strive to rekindle the flame that burned between them when they first met five years ago. Comedy and romance are brought to life by these two gifted actresses as the characters recall memories of what made their relationship hot, and their love for each other intense.

“Frankie and Johnny,” however, took on a more serious tone. Written by Henry Alberto, the play revolved around the dangers of involving ones self in a verbally and physically abusive relationship. Frankie (Andrew Villarreal) and Johnny (Silva) are two lovers whose quarrels have grown from verbal spats to all out physical violence. Although I commend the writer and director for placing a spotlight on such a relevant and important topic within the LGBTQ community, the play itself was a bit over the top. It appeared as though the intent was to shock and awe the audience instead of taking on a more subdued route that could have sent a much stronger message against domestic violence.

In conclusion, considering this is but only the second installment of the Brown & Out Theater Festival I applaud the production team, including Artistic Director Josefina Lopez, for bringing such an incredible vision to life. B&O no doubt places the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride and says buckle up! One recommendation would be to trim down the number of plays thereby devoting more time to the overall development and impact of some of their more powerful story lines. Nonetheless, B&O prevails as a must-see experience sure to satisfy an audience hungry for more LGBTQ theatrical engagements.

My grade: A-

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-For more information or tickets for the 2nd Annual Brown & Out Theater Festival please visit www.Casa0101.org or call 323-263-7684.

-Photos by Ed Krieger

7 Comments »

  1. MJ Silva October 15, 2012 at 1:15 pm - Reply

    A glowing review of… Miriam Peniche! Haha! I love my fellow castmate! She is brilliant! As is everyone else! ONE MORE WEEKEND! GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!!!!

    • Miriam Peniche October 15, 2012 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Awwww MJ you are so sweet! Thank you for the shout out. You are pretty amazing yourself!

  2. Wendell Jones October 15, 2012 at 1:26 pm - Reply

    People stood up when Miriam walked out on Saturday night.

  3. Patricia R. October 15, 2012 at 1:59 pm - Reply

    I saw it on Saturday it was so great!

  4. Carlos Guillermo Toscano Martinez October 15, 2012 at 4:08 pm - Reply

    saludos primo!!

  5. Heidi High October 17, 2012 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    I went! It’s great. My best friends art is displaying there too!

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