Where No Homie Has Gone Before
Writer/ Director Rick Najera's Latinologue features candid insights
Al Carlos Hernandez
Actor-Writer-Director Rick Najera holds up a cracked mirror to contemporary Latino society, lighting the stage with flaming and uncomfortably candid insights into who we are as a people and to use hip-hop vernacular, how we do?
Published on LatinoLA: November 18, 2002
The play, which is in its final week at the Lyceum Theatre in San Diego, is a collection of very funny and sometimes embarrassing satirical monologues about the modern second and third generation Latino experience. A tag team of characters make there way to the stage and tell the audience a certain story.
Like Sybil, Najera is an author of many symbiotic personalities. He has brought to life an eclectic tribe of whack job characters through which to vocalize his ironic and informed view of American Latino life from post 9-11, to the 7-11 and back.
The play which was featured on Showtime?s Latino Laugh Festival, has traveled the nation to sold out performances. Latinologues was created by Najera as a showcase for Latino talent. In San Diego the ensemble features Najera, Rene Lavan and Lina Acosta.
There have been over sixty actors used in the production as it morphs from place to place, rewritten and kept as up to date as an Amber Alert, or comadres hollering across a back yard fence.
Latinologues has hosted folks like Eric Estrada, Eddie Olmos, Geraldo Rivera, Christina, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jacob Vargas, Mario Lopez, Tony Plana and several others he found wandering around the mall.
The play starts out with a paradigm -- the Mexican Moses, an ad-hoc religious leader who insists on buying wholesale. He didn?t realize that he was the chosen one, as he was found by Republicans floating down the river in a Raiders ice chest. He realized that he was Latino because of his high tolerance for lawn blowers and fascination with Banda music. MM is charged with leading his people to the promise land but quickly realized that Latinos are not one people, rather several related cultures with a common second language.
Najera is one of the few veteran Latino comedy TV writers, and has an impressive resume of writing for such ground-breaking shows as ?In Living Color? and ?Chris Rock.? Writing for a Latino-specific audience is a very difficult thing to do. What a Quebradita dancer thinks is funny makes a Dominican want to slap your Mam?.
What the play is trying to say is that Latinos have many voices that span the spectrum of cultural nuance. What is spoken but not said is, if one looks closely into the mirror, Latinos can take themselves a little too seriously and under white hot theatrical lights, there are warts, winged eyeliner, and many, tongue-in-cheek winks towards the ridiculous to the subliminal.
The character in my view that encapsulates the entire theatrical effort is the Manic, not necessarily Rick, but the third up to bat. This Movie/TV industry token, (not tokin? in the fumando sense) media executive is clearly light in the loafers. Neutered and inane he is riding the gravy train of trading his spoken ethnicity for a network job. He is fooling the body politic into believing that he can mentor the first big Latino project. Latino writers are keenly aware that Studio?s hire ?House Negro Hispanics? to handle ?That? demographic, that?s how films like Boulevard Nights get made.
Another interesting character is Juan Miguel Gonzales, Elian?s Dad, as he converses with Fidel Castro on the phone. This is reminiscent of the Bob Newhart comedic phone diatribes of network variety shows past. Najera is clearly a student of TV comedy, and can pop comedic, caustic and conciliatory jabs, while jumping the rope of left-side-liberal political correctness, bottom line it?s funny.
Buford Gomez is the special border patrol agent who is a lean, mean, deporting machine. BG talks about fighting in Desert Storm which was tough because every Mexican looked like an Iraqi, who swears he saw Bin Laden coming out of a 7-11 bringing a six pack to a carne asada BBQ. He goes on to say that he almost shot his wife coming out of the shower because she had a towel on her head.
Latinologues has a little something-something for everybody but is for mature audiences. There is gratuitous profanity, and sexually explicit material which in my opinion detracts from such a complex writing project of this magnitude. I come from the old school where I consider it disrespectful to swear or spit blue game in front of women folk. Najera is too good of a writer to have to resort to four-letter bottom feeding clich?.
Congratulations to Rick who also directs this effort, for continuing to go where no Homie has ever gone before.
Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist and a screenwriter.