Prima Doñas' LatiNacional: tu casa es mi casa

The improv troupe behind Latinauts gives 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a makeover like the country has never seen

(l-r) Lilli Lopez, James Fernandez, and Javier Ungo in LatiNacional (Photo by Steve Rogers Photography)

The walk-and-talk looks familiar: the president being briefed by his head of security as they stride briskly through the halls. And the sound that follows rings a similar bell: It's the swelling, stirring strains of The West Wing theme. But this security chief is accessorizing his natty gray suit with a red-white-and-blue luchador mask. And judging by the chief executive's lack of, let's say, intellectual verve, this guy's no Josiah Bartlet. No, despite the sensory cues, we aren't in Aaron Sorkin's (White) House. This is la Casa Blanca, the president's residence as conceived by the improvisers of Prima Doñas, creators of the B. Iden Payne Award-winning sci-fi telenovela Latinauts. They've taken a break from their spacefaring adventures aboard the starship Edward James Olmos to spend this month before the midterm elections exploring the strange lifeforms within the swamp that our naranja-skinned Anglo president promised to drain. But though this show is down-to-earth, LatiNacional: tu casa es mi casa is set in the Latinx-dominant universe of Latinauts, meaning the presidente de los Estados Unidos runs the country from the Huevo Office and has a masked Secret Service agent who, before restraining someone, asks his boss, "Permission to put him in a lucha libre hold?"

This being such a ripe time for satirizing presidential politics, some pointed jabs at the current occupants of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue might seem a given. But LatiNacional isn't necessarily shooting for a direct lampoon of the Trump administration. You won't see, say, mirror-universe versions of Melania in its first lady or Sarah Huckabee Sanders in the press secretary, and the cast managed to get through its entire Oct. 6 show without a single reference to a Supreme Court confirmation hearing (!). Topical references may show up in future "episodes" as the show begins to gel, but based on last week's performance, the Prima Doñas are more interested in the telenovela aspects of the White House bubble. Among the conflicts that night were whether the president would remember his wedding anniversary this year and getting el Jefe's freeloading uncle to move out of, as Tío called it, "Lincoln's Bedroom." The performers were putting their focus on the characters.

And the characters they're developing are well worth watching. Roxy Castillo's First Lady may be half the size of her towering spouse (imposing James Fernandez), but she has a strong will and a short fuse where he's concerned; if he neglects her one more time, she won't need any help from Congress to declare war. As the sponging Tío, Carlos LaRotta is never without a beer in his hand or a hand out, and his comical way with words adds to his appeal. (The other night, he asked to help address the issue of "global warning.") Ben G. Bazán, sporting a cheap "USA" track suit, has the president's none-too-bright brother constantly throwing pity parties for himself, departing from his default Spanish every now and then to toss out a phrase in English that he o-ver-ar-tic-u-lates in a show of petulance. Laura de la Fuente's presidential biographer also has a funny linguistic tic: the thickest Bah-stahn accent this side of an Affleck flick. Then there's Lilli Lopez's hilarious press secretary, an excitable party girl who's always trying to restore order and inevitably creating more chaos.

This early in the run, not all of the characters had clear arcs or relationships – de la Fuente's biographer at one point admitted to being a spy and later hit on the first lady, revelations with plenty of storyline potential, but neither was taken anywhere, and though LatiNacional revolves around Fernandez's Presidente, he mostly played off others rather than establish a strong personality of his own. Still, the foundation for a show on the level of Latinauts is there, and it will take only a few more walk-and-talks for Prima Doñas to turn this Latinx West Wing into "must-see telenovela."

LatiNacional: tu casa es mi casa

ColdTowne Theater, 4803 Airport, 512/814-8696
Through Nov. 17
Running time: 1 hr.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin improv
Improviser Shannon Stott Brings Some <i>Lord of the Rings</i> to Out of Bounds
Improviser Shannon Stott Brings Some Lord of the Rings to Out of Bounds
The Gandalf of improv is all over the comedy festival

Robert Faires, Aug. 23, 2019

<i>Immigrants, The Musical! (Part Two)</i>
Immigrants, the Musical! (Part Two)
With this improvised musical series, one family's tale of coming to the states becomes a tale about us all

Robert Faires, Nov. 23, 2018

More Arts Reviews
The Hideout Theatre’s Virtual Threefer
The Hideout Theatre’s Virtual Threefer
Three troupes Zoomed and Twitched their time upon the improv stage

Wayne Alan Brenner, April 3, 2020

Sad Girls Productions’ <i>So Lucky</i>
Sad Girls Productions' So Lucky
This world premiere from a brand-new company lacks polish, but it does honor its community’s stories

Elizabeth Cobbe, March 20, 2020

More by Robert Faires
New Murals in Austin You May Have Missed
New Murals in Austin You May Have Missed
With murals sprouting across town like bluebonnets, here's a guide to some of the most notable new additions

April 3, 2020

How Austin Musician Gina Chavez Became the Subject of the City's Latest Mural
How Austin Musician Gina Chavez Became the Subject of the City's Latest Mural
The story of an L.A. muralist creating a 12-foot-tall portrait of a local musical star

April 3, 2020


Austin improv, Prima Doñas, Latinauts, Lilli Lopez, Ben G Nazán, James Fernandez, Roxy Castillo, Laura de la Fuente, Carlos LaRotta

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle