The Latino Comedy Project's 'Citizen Quién?' hits the audience like a 300-pound masked Mexican wrestler rebounding almost horizontal off the ring ropes of parody
Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., June 3, 2005
The Hideout Theater, through June 5
Running time: 2 hrs
The Latino Comedy Project's Citizen Quién? hits the audience like a 300-pound masked Mexican wrestler rebounding almost horizontal off the ring ropes of parody. It's an exclusively mental impact, of course, built of well-planned, well-polished, and well-executed comedy, which then engages that audience's writhing gray matter in a sort of figure-four leglock before delivering the final blow: an ape-sex suplex that slams a viewer into the squared circle's sweat-stained mat and destroys any remaining vestige of boredom.
Now the ape-sex suplex is a move popularized by Los Bros. Hernandez in their seminal comic book Love and Rockets, and it's mentioned here by way of cultural resonance and as an indication of accessibility. Accessibility, sí, because your reviewer is familiar with Latino culture mostly from having read the brothers' complex graphic creations and from 16 years of living shallowly in the queso-covered heart of Austin. So, what I'm saying is, if I can be bowled over by the starry Spanglish banter of the LCP, if Wayne Anglo Brenner can be reduced to soundless paroxysms of mirth by these renowned brown clowns, then so probably can the whitest descendant of Ye Olde Mayflower's crowd. And if you, dear reader, are any part at all of La Raza, then you may be fresh out of the hospital after having busted a literal gut laughing at the manic Hispanic antics onstage, or what the fuck's your problem, ese?
With this new show, LCP artistic director Adrian Villegas and crew unleash their usual multimedia onslaught of send-ups of current affairs and classic situations. Making use of live performance, music, slickly produced video, and unabashed breaking of the fourth theatrical wall, the players wrestle effectively with material skewering mariachis, big-business devastation of private enterprise, barrio life, gentrification, language differences, media tactics, and politics. Recurring between these often hilarious sketches is the video-documented tale of Hector Quintanilla, a former chiclet-seller-cum-action-hero, who, thanks to a successful Republican push to allow non-natives (read: Ah-nuld) to run for president, is campaigning toward our nation's ultimate executive office.
The story of Quintanilla the titular Citizen Quién is one of the three ways, it occurred to me, in which the LCP effectively wrings humor from the contrasts and complements of Latino and Anglo life. The three ways are these: It's Funny Because It's True (as in the "Mal-Mart" sketch); It's Funny Because It Could Almost Be True ("Citizen Quién?"); and It's Funny Because Somewhere There's Some Cracker Who Thinks Stereotypes Are True, and the LCP Is Going to Up That Ignoramus' Ante Ad Absurdum (any number of sketches).Ê
This is why the show is also, in its relentlessly smart and wacky way, quite an eye-opener regarding the ways in which Latinos perceive themselves versus the ways in which Anglos perceive them, and vice versa. It can even be a sharp-stick-in-the-eye opener, as when White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales' memo regarding the events at Abu Ghraib is lambasted by using images of torture recontextualized, as the grad students say, into that politician's childhood.Ê
So, yes, this is a work of theatre that will make you think. But you'll be doing most of that thinking after the performers have left the stage and screen and you're driving back home; you'll be doing that thinking the next time you're interacting with a person of some cultural background other than your own. Because while Citizen Quién? is happening right in front of you, amigo, you'll likely be too busy laughing for any deeper cogitation.