Latinauts: The Wrath of Juan at ColdTowne
Prima Doñas’ third installment of its popular “telenovela in space” delivers the laughs
Reviewed by Shanon Weaver, Fri., April 20, 2018
I learned a couple things this week at ColdTowne Theatre. First: My comprehension of the Spanish language isn't as terrible as I thought. Or comedy is a universal language. One of the two. Possibly both. Second: Space Gonorrhea isn't something to be taken lightly.
Austin improv troupe Prima Doñas returns for a third adventure in espacio exterior with Latinauts: The Wrath of Juan. Billed as a "telenovela in space," the bold crew of the Starship Edward James Olmos boldly go "where very few brown people have gone before," and deliver a lot of laughs on the way.
After a brief introductory scene, helmed by ship captain Laura de la Fuente, a fully Latinx crew encounters the evil space-villain Juanna (Marcia Andrea). It's at this point the evening's theme is chosen, as Juanna draws a slip of paper from a plastic clamshell. On this evening, "fresh water" was chosen, and the show was crafted around this idea. Every show is different, obviously, and the cast immediately sets about their tasks. Some cast members take the theme to mean they need to conserve the ship's water supply, some think they are searching for fresh water, and others defend the water supply against Juanna, who is trying to steal it. Eventually, all of these are true, and it's a privilege to see such a talented group of performers organically meld these nonscripted storylines.
The mechanics of a typical improv show are well-disguised. The choosing of the theme is quite clever, and scenes end when other members take the stage at a natural point in the current scene to either join or transition into the next; there's no tapping out or calling "scene."
Highlights of the evening involved the crew's laundry and a hush-hush affair between crewmates. Danielle Gonzalez seems a bit too eager to wash the captain's panties, which is fine; ship's counselor Lilli Lopez doesn't want to ruin her nails doing dirty work anyway. James Fernandez may have given his lover, Carlos LaRotta, a bad case of that Space Gonorrhea I mentioned – doubly bad since Carlos has been bathing in the ship's main water supply for weeks. Ben G. Bazán has a memorable virtual reality birthday party with the crew at "pinche Peter Piper Pizza!" though ends up bullied by Linzy Beltran. The crew is rounded out by the ever-curious artificial lifeform Y.A.M.I.N.A. 6000 (Yamina Khouane) and the ship itself, Papi the CPU (Javier Ungo), who has a penchant for "initiating romantic lighting" onboard when the need arises.
The show is very bilingual, but folks who don't speak Spanish at all should gather contextually what's funny and why. Those who do will, of course, get the joke much quicker.
One-part celebration of Latinx comedy and culture and one part Galaxy Quest, Latinauts: The Wrath of Juan will very likely put a smile on your face. You may even want to attend again, just to see what happens with a different theme.
And yeah, watch out for that Space Gonorrhea, kids.
Latinauts: The Wrath of JuanColdTowne Theater, 4803 Airport, 512/814-8696
Saturdays through May 5
Running time: 1 hr.