Six Mexicans Named Gonzalez
Local Arts Reviews
Reviewed by Barry Pineo, Fri., May 14, 2004
Six Mexicans Named Gonzalez
Tillery Street Theater, through May 16
Running Time: 1 hr, 40 min
Racism. Everybody knows what it is, but nobody really wants to talk about it. No one really wants to claim a familiarity with it. Everyone, it seems, wants to deny its existence. But it doesn't take unusual perception to know that we live in a racist culture, and it doesn't take deep examination to realize that not a whole lot is being done about it. I mean, weren't we supposed to have this problem licked in the Sixties?
Given its widespread, insidious nature, you might be asking yourself: So what? What, exactly, can one person do about a problem as widespread as racism? You can talk about it, that's what. Every chance you get. Like I'm doing right now. Because racism thrives on silence and the ignorance that silence engenders. And that's why I have tremendous respect for Adrian Villegas, the writer of and (almost) sole performer in this Teatro Humanidad production. He's unafraid of confronting the specter of American racism and spitting in its ghoulish eye. Plus, he's pretty damned funny while he does it.
Villegas is probably best known as the artistic director of the Latino Comedy Project, and if you live in Austin and haven't heard of the LCP, then you just haven't been paying attention. Here, Villegas restages his full-length rumination on, among other things, the place of Latinos in Hollywood, using a structure that centers on a family of men the reason that all six of these Mexicans are named Gonzalez. The first Mexican is an aspiring filmmaker, David Gonzalez, who doesn't just want to change the way Latinos are portrayed in the media, but the way Mexican Latinos are portrayed. (Antonio Banderas is mentioned, but only as an "import.") Using examples like Marlon Brando as Emiliano Zapata and Charlton Heston in Touch of Evil, David runs through Hollywood's portrayal of Mexicans. He also talks about the few "positive" examples of Hollywood representations of Mexicans, like Ricardo Montalban as Khan ("short for Chicano") and, best of all, that smart, quick little mouse, Speedy Gonzalez. As the evening progresses and Villegas shows off his versatility by portraying all of the Gonzalezes Mario the stoner, Guerrero the martial artist, Jose the street punk, and Manuel the grandfather we also get to see film clips showing Brando in some really bad make-up as Zapata, Heston painted brown, Elvis in Charro!, and plenty of that clever little mouse.
While on its surface this might look like just another monologue show, what makes it really interesting is the way that Villegas relates the characters to one another. These aren't just any six Mexicans, they're the Gonzalez family Mexicans, and in language as strong as its subject matter, Villegas creates six distinctive, interrelated personalities, ending the show with a neat twist that I should have seen coming, but didn't. A perceptive, political writer and a talented, versatile performer, Villegas gives Austin an accomplished piece of theatre that should tickle its collective funny bone and, more importantly, touch its collective conscience.