Thursday, May 01, 2008

'Speak Spanish to Me'

'Speak Spanish to Me' is currently running at the Actors Theater, Herberger Theater Center .

Set on the campus of Arizona State University, its the tale of love and coming of age. Liz is a white, liberal, post-modern hippie from Maine. On her first day on campus she meets Frank, a good looking Mexican-American conservative whose dad is a self-made businessman who showers his son with all the money he needs, or doesn't need and sometimes doesn't want. Problem is, Liz thinks Frank is a migrant worker and he does nothing to dissuade her projections. She has fallen in love with her ideals and Frank's flawless Spanish.

As a comedy, the play works. Brittany Schoenborn's portrayal of Liz is on target. She is funny, sensitive, and insecure. Frank's character is played by Marcelino Quinonez. He equally is believable and is easy to connect to. Together they build a story of energy, conflict and they delve lightly into contemporary issues of immigration, racism, and abortion. What also helps is that both are or were ASU students.

There are five other characters in the play, two of which are a female professor and a white wannabe rapper. The characters were shallow and insulting to the play. I'm not even sure they were necessary to the plot in any way - maybe they just took up time and space. Surely the playwright could have found better characters?

Three side characters were played by one man, Richard Trujillo. As Frank's father he hit the mark. In the final scene he is Elvis at the Vegas Wedding Chapel. He was a riot, incredibly funny. The opposite is the case in his portrayal as an Asian doctor. That should have been left out the play. It was really bad besides being insulting. A strange portrayal in a play about race and sterotypes.

If you can get a cheap seat the play is worth it simply because it explores issues confronted by ASU students. The play is a good conversation starter when it comes to difficult issues. Its weakness may have been in not going deeper with those issues, of course it is billed as a comedy and that may be its saving grace.

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