Brown Out and Five

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Review by: Dale Reynolds

Casa 0101, in Boyle Heights, is the only major live-theater in its district and has, for some years now, been a quality addition to the largely Latino community just east of downtown L.A. As such, they reach audiences who are not used to attending plays or musicals. This theatre, therefore, is of real value.

But, all too often, its work has been limited in value to only those who do not regularly attend such entertainments. And for the rest of us, it’s too-often a chore to watch and evaluate with standards not necessarily appropriate for the site.

BROWN OUT V is an example of what is important to its Community: explorations of gay, lesbian, bi and trans stories, written by locals after a ten-week workshop on writing. Much of it is original, fun and observable. Eleven short plays and one ten-minute trans video, but sadly, not all of them are good enough.

Giovanni Navarro, Bri Simone and Teddy Rodriguez in “Zaddy”

The work consists of twelve writers, eleven actors and seven directors. The unevenness would seem to belong to the producers, who mount shows that don’t seem rehearsed enough or well written. Of the plays, the best for me was “Are You Gay or Latino?,”  set in the 1980s, where the question for LGBT activists was the conundrum of how can you be openly gay, when most of your communities won’t recognize your arguments for inclusivity. Jesus Tedeo Rodriguez (as Juan) stood-out here. “Mija” another show, sensitively explored how a loving relationship can last when their legal status remains unclear. “Black Sheep, Rainbow Sheep,” using Latinx Magical Realism tried to explore the ghosts of our rainbow pasts, not altogether coherently.  “Zaddy,” one of the better plays, where a young gay Latino, (an excellent Giovanni Navarro) stood-up on a blind date, forswears all allegiance to men, until a chance meeting with a wise older gay man (Teddy Rodriguez).

Stevie Vallejo and Devon Torres in “Mija”

The balance of the evening was more of the same, without any of them truly standing out. Three of the eleven actors did show-off steam and internal awareness of their characters (Stevie Vallejo, especially, as both fem and butch women – neither of her portrayals stereotypical — and Arash Aiinehsazian in a variety of roles.

There are strong reasons for any audience to see these plays, but because of the roughness in the execution of the two hours, Latinx audiences might be more receptive to them.

Brown & Out V runs through July 7th, Thurs-Sat, 8:00pm, Sundays at 4pm @ CASA 0101, 2102 East First Street (at St. Louis St.), Boyle Heights, 90033.  Tickets:  323.263.7684 or www.tickets@casa0101.org.