We Could Write a Better Play, or My Review of “Los Otros” at the Mark Taper

27 Jun

Today I’m performing a Public Service Announcement. Don’t, for the love of the gods, waste your money on Los Otros,”the “tenderly observant” (???) new musical currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum. Or if you have been suckered into going, enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in the outdoor plaza that surrounds the Taper and skip the first half, which is like sitting through a bad and way-too-long American Idol audition.

playbill for “los otros” aka “los crapos” – yeah, i said it

I know. I’m being harsh. But I blame the playwright, director, librettist, theater director and actors who came together to bring us this not good, often excruciatingly sung, clichéd drivel about . . . what? My friends and I couldn’t even agree on what this musical was about. 

The first half, sung in the most unpleasantly singsong-y way by supposedly veteran actor Michelle Pawk, is dreadful. The story follows Pawk, playing “Woman,” as she ages from a young girl growing up in 1950s Southern California to a middle-aged divorced mother of two girls. Along the way she encounters “Mexicans,” who elicit fear, curiosity, compassion and lust in our protagonist and impress her with their “otherness.” Or maybe she realizes that she’s just as much of an outsider/”other” as she presumes them to be. Or some other horse donkey like that.

This first section is just embarrassing. I was embarrassed for the actor, who I assume is actually talented. I was embarrassed for the theater who produced this crap. And I was embarrassed for the audience, who squirmed (I was among them) through this bizarre non-story story. Wow, brown people who I thought were different from me are actually just like me. Or maybe even better! Amazing!

Luckily, if you somehow persevere through the first half, Julio Monge’s appearance in the second half as “Man” is a welcome respite. Monge has a beautiful singing voice and is actually allowed to use it, and his character is engagingly written and acted with real emotion. It was a pleasure to listen to him sing for 30 or so minutes. His story follows a more linear and logical path with flashbacks from his aged and proudly gay and successful accountant self to his humble beginnings as a poor (and sexually curious) Mexican-American kid who picked fruit in the summers with his family.

Of course, since this playwright can’t seem to leave well enough alone, “Woman” comes back at the end (we all cried “NOOOO!!” inside when we saw Pawk emerge, backlit, center stage), and it is revealed (wha-la!) that these two characters share a linked past and present. Clever, clever.

So the ultimate lesson of this cultural outing was: you wanna write a play? Go for it. Because crap like this gets produced, so it can’t be that difficult. My friends and I joked that we could write a better play during the car ride home. The good thing is that this is just one of four plays CityBoy and I are seeing as part of the Center Theatre Group’s subscription membership that we just signed up for.

And the rest of the year is fantastic (Red with Alfred Molina, Mamet’s November, and the amazing Other Desert Cities which I hope with all my heart will come to LA with its original NYC cast, especially including the unstoppable Stockard Channing), so one clunker in the bunch, I can live with. More than that and there’ll be hell to pay.

So that, kids, is my PSA for today. Los Otros . . . just don’t do it.

Oh, and our play idea (Aaron’s really) . . . LORENA BOBBIT, THE MUSICAL. Yeah, I’d rather go see that.

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