The Mojado Brothers Comedy Festival: Aaayyeeeee-aye-aye-aye!!
But last Saturday's show at the venerable theatre was an exception. In what was billed as "The Mojado Brothers Comedy Festival," four Hispanic comics and a Tejano singing duo called Sister Sister, managed to tap into what a former colleague of mine liked to call "the cultural zeitgeist" of Saturday's almost exclusively Latino audience. In other words, they rocked!
No surprise. Each came equipped with the credentials to pull it off. Headliner Pablo Francisco has appeared on HBO and Showtime, and is a regular on MAD TV. Rene Sandoval, who served as emcee, has been on HBO's Comedy Relief. Sheila Rivera, a Puerto Rican-born comic and former aerospace engineer, is a favorite on the Houston comedy club scene. And El Paso native Freddie Soto headlines regularly at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.
To the casual, non-Latino observer, the show might have seemed more lovefest than comedy fest. At some point, one of the comics could've stuck a microphone up their ass and farted and the audience probably would have howled.
Which is not to say that they weren't funny. These guys were funny. Very funny. But they were also among family. I mean "family" in that generic ethnic way that teenagers in the barrio mean when they say, "Yo! Don't fuck with Juanito. He's family, ese." Or when older Latinos say, "Mi casa es su casa" and really mean it.
Every moment that he was onstage, Sandoval's face was plastered with a proud smile. "It's great to see all these brown faces," he told the audience. And the audience was packed with them.
On the one hand, I couldn't help but feel good, too, that Austin's Latino community had turned out to support the Latino comedy troupe. The show was sold out.
On the other hand, I couldn't help but notice the lack of non-brown faces. I counted two or three whites and one African American in the crowd. I think Eddie Murphy and Dana Carvey are funny. So, why weren't there many whites and African Americans in the audience?
I know, this is supposed to be a light-hearted or biting review about a bunch of jokesters, not a commentary on America's self-segregationist society. But it's frustrating to know that most Latinos don't think twice about watching Cosby or Seinfeld, but whites apparently still don't feel comfortable buying tickets to see a nationally touring Latino comedy festival.
It's sad, and too bad. Hispanic or not, anyone who didn't catch Saturday's show missed a good one. As standup comics say, "Funny is funny." The Mojado Brothers proved it.
Oh, well. In the meantime: Aaaayyeeeeeee-aye-aye-aye! A-hoo-ya! -- James E. Garcia
TASTE OF THE NATION: FAITH, HOPE, & CHAIR-ITY
Raising funds to fight hunger in our community is a serious challenge, and nowhere has it been met more creatively than at this auction held in conjunction with the annual Taste of the Nation fundraising dinner. Local artists, designers, and architects are invited to create one-of-a-kind chairs and platters to be auctioned for the benefit of local agencies Caritas and the Sustainable Food Center. The appealing metaphor of selling chairs and plates to insure that more of our neighbors have a place at the table obviously provided great inspiration.
Chairs, functional and symbolic, ranged from an enormous blue "Kingly-Queenly" Throne from architect Marley Porter to a tiny, delicate wire "Garden Chair" made by Lauren Levy. Marybeth Reid's Adirondack chair, painted a delicate yellow and decorated with cherries and leaves, promised a cool and relaxing repose, while Doug Chambers' handmade Adirondack chair, with a rich, burnished tongue-oil finish, was elegant in craftsmanship and simplicity. One of the more hotly pursued items was a dainty vanity chair entitled "Starry, Starry Night," with a midnight blue seat and legs festooned with twinkling gold stars, by Marco Biancalana. Rocking chairs were well represented by a large, ladder-backed rocker on large wheels, "Only Rock & Roll" from architect Greg Free, and a smaller button-covered rocker called "Rock Your Button This" from Lisa McGiffert. Lisa Cary Vickery turned a small white bar stool into a many-tiered wedding cake for the "Wedding Bell" chair, and the rectangular seat of the low "Magic Chair" from Alberto Insua and Catherine Carpenter lifted to reveal a secret compartment for storing tarot cards and runes. Nancy Hoover's simple Windsor-style "Share Chair" was covered with fruits and vegetables and timely quotations about hunger. The most politically astute creation was the outrageous "Soccer Mom" by Walter Winslett, with the chair's back and arms depicting a cheering "Mom" in a sweatshirt bearing soccer trophies around the collar and a cap with a swirling ornament in the crown.
Platters were a new offering this year and most were created at Sgraffito, a paint-it-yourself ceramics studio. Some of the gifted Austinites who created platters were watercolorist Will Klem, award-winning restaurant architect Dick Clark, chili scion/painter Gordon Fowler, and a group of students active in East Austin's Sustainable Food Center. Nancy Hoover's attractive platter bore the same place setting pictured in her cheerful artwork for the event's invitations. A lovely wide, flat bowl in shades of greens and blues from muralist Malou Flato was the object of very competitive bidding, and several savvy collectors were eager to pick up another signature plate from Claudia Reese. Teri Jonas adorned a plate with one of the houses that are a trademark of her work, and Helmut Barnett created one of the few square platters with a bold abstract design in primary colors. Perhaps the most striking design was Jane Schweppe's large circular platter covered in deer hide accompanied by a wooden carving set. At the end of the night, the sale of these platters and chairs had secured $5,000 for the designated charities. -- Virginia B. Wood
A SAGA OF BILLY THE KID: SURE-SHOOTIN'
Club de Ville
through May 11
Running Time: 1 hr, 40 min
What we know of Billy the Kid, fresh-faced youngster turned gun-toting villain, makes for an excellent cautionary tale in which we all discover a new respect for the law. But that's only because the tale has been told by Sheriff Pat Garrett, the winner in this battle, who got to be immortalized for bringing down this bloodthirsty outlaw.
Playwright Johnny Simons clues us in to the other side of the legend, recasting Billy as a misunderstood lad who gets caught in circumstances beyond his control and Garrett as a misguided sheriff more enamored with the idea of being the man who kills the Kid than trying to dispense actual justice. For this Tongue and Groove production, director David Yeakle enlivens Simons' work with a sackful of singing and dancing, creating a dynamic, delicate, and not-overly-sweet portrayal of an American legend.
The production itself is almost magical, as if this is nothing but a pleasant fantasy about the Old West. Jason Amato's use of saturated light, Kristin M. Hurst's understated employment of cartoon-like objects, such as a well-painted swing and a Styrofoam cactus, play off the Club DeVille's rock wall and create the ideal atmosphere for this drama.
But it is the cast which makes this production truly work. Todd Lowe lends an air of hard-edged innocence to his baby-faced Billy and is a joy to watch. Dana Younger's Pat Garrett reeks of strength and persistence. Steve McDaniel as L.G. Murphy, a cattle rustler with a harsh sense of justice, embodies the rough-and-tumble spirit of the Old West. Sarah Ing, Susan S. Linville, Kimberlee M. Hewitt, and Jessica Kaman, as a kind of Greek chorus, are lively and committed to telling this famous tale.
While this production works on so many levels, there are some areas which could stand improvement, in spite of the best intentions of the cast and crew. Simons' script is disjointed and oddly paced, and contains an unnecessary intermission. The band, a heavily used vehicle for carrying most of the plot, is difficult to understand, as are the actors who are struggling to project over them.
Despite its drawbacks, though, this show is a dream -- visually, intellectually, and emotionally -- and it offers a fresh perspective on one of the stories that defined an era. -- Adrienne Martini