Friday, September 13, 2019

Kiss My Aztec” A Crowd Pleaser From The Get-Go


At this juncture our history and convoluted culture, anything that is irreverent is 
almost politically correct. It might not be historically correct, but as of 2019 
anything goes, as they say, and especially in this current, waited for a lifetime 
(or so it seems) to finally arrive in San Diego, “Kiss My Aztec” by Columbian
born writer/comedian John Leguizamo (“Latin History for Morons”) 
andTony Taccone (Book) and Benjamin Velez (Music) with lyrics by David
Kamp, Benjamin Velez and Leguizamo is here. Tony Taccone, directs.

Written by committee, and sewn together to make a political statement,
everything but the kitchen sink is thrown in (it would definitely run 
overt hree hours if it were) and performed by a splendid company
 of young(about 11) and versatile actors; it is a co production with 
Berkeley Rep.now here through Oct. 13.

Just as a spoiler, and as a transplant from Boston (no excuses) my memory
bank stopped at some point and Aztec History is but a vague memory. 
That’s probably a blessing. I do remember the history of The Boston Tea
Party but of course that was about taxes and everyone has a say on taxes. 
Scene from "Kiss My Aztec"
“Kiss My Aztec” is about colonization and land and money (We can never
get away from money.) Save for the Aztec Newspaper at SDSU, their sports teams 
all bearing the name Aztec so- and so, and all radio news reports come from offices
located on “Montezuma Mesa” I never really thought much about it. 

If noise and the wandering stories (yes stories and plots and there are many) don’t 
tickle your Monty Python funny bones, perhaps the rhythm of the salsa
“Punk-Ass Geek-A”), Latin, hip -hop, gospel (that too), funk,ballads 
(“New Girl, New World”) and merengue, will.


Modern slang is mixed with Latinx culture and no one missed the line
about ‘white men in boats coming to our shores’ at the top of the show.
That about defines where this is all headed.

The sock puppets, Machu/Pacchu belong to the jester, Pepe (Joél Pérez,
one of the most consistently excellent actors in this production) who is
following another fierce warrior, Columbia (Yani Marin; also excellent),
daughter of El Jaguar Negro (Chad Carstarphen) leader of the Aztecs who
wants to change the course of history. Pepe would like to bed her but she’s 
interested in conquest. He’s the yin to her yang. (“Chained Melody”)
Yani Marin
Narrated by the nimble Maria- Christana Oliveras as Tomila, the shaman,
who takes us on this journey, a journey of multiple proportions of 16th
century Aztec’s plotting to get back and ultimately rid of the Spaniards and
El Jaguar Negro who stole their gold, which is all but gone at this juncture,
and ‘reimage the Aztec resistance to invading Spanish armies’.  It turned
out to be ‘the impossible dream’ but the creator’s went full throttle.

Contrary to her father’s wishes (“Don’t Tell Me What To Do”) Colombina
goes into battle against the Spanish head honcho, Rodrigo (Al Rodrigo).
First stop along the journey is getting Rodrigo’s precious amulet, his 
sacred crystal; a full blood red moon,  (with hints of a ruby red moon in the
background emerging now and then) which he wears around his neck.
KCDe la Cruz, Chad Carstarphan and Angela Belaird
Rather than worrying about this big flashy red ‘ruby ‘moon jewel,
he’s trying to reign in with a mind of her own daughter Pilar
(Desereé Rodriguez “Dark Meat”) who is willing to give up her
virginity to break the bonds of being used as a political bargaining
tool. His son, Fernando (Zachary Infante, a perfect foil), a little man
with big ideas to take the throne from his father, is in bed with his
lover cleric Reymundo. (“Tango In The Closet”)

The musical opens on Clint Ramos’ scaffold and wooden set
(he is also credited for the costumes) with a street mural of graffiti
on a brick wall in the background.  Like the play itself the costumes
are a mash-up of styles from historical looking warrior get up’s to
tight black spandex pants worn by Yani Martin to big gowns on
Pilar, Bishop’s Habits, to colorful T shirts and coveralls, tennis shoes
and boots and gold lame’ tights.  

Maija Garcia choreographed the many dance numbers and Alexander
V. Nichols and Jessica Paz are credited for the lighting and sound.
Simon Hale gets kudos for the orchestrations with Wilson Torres for
the additional percussion arrangements. 

The opening night crowd was all over the production and the
enthusiasm floated out into the lobby after the show. The show is
part funny with low -brow humor, sight gags, off color and raunchy
 jokes (just in case you might have thought otherwise), commedia
del arte, sarcasm and impressed with its own importance.  And long!

I’m sure I’m in the minority, but you can’t like ‘um all.

Oh, and if you really want to get the 411 on the history of the
Aztec Nation and the Spanish conquests, I’d suggest Plan B: Study it.
But for pure entertainment, and if you are up to it, venture out to the 
Playhouse.

Dates: Through Oct. 13th
Organization: La Jolla Playhouse
Phone: 858-550-1010
Production Type:  Musical Satire
Where: 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla
Ticket Prices: Start at $25.00
Web: lajollaplayhouse.org.
Venue: Mandell Weiss Theatre
Photo: Alessandra Mello/Berkley Repertory Theatre

See you at the theatre.





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