"¡Ser!" Kicky & Charming at LATC - review by M.R. Hunter
Karen Anzoategui's kicky solo piece about a childhood shuttled between Los Angeles and Buenos Aires is a journey well worth taking largely due to such a charming and joyful guide. Brimming with oodles of personality, Anzoategui infuses her zeal for soccer while providing social commentary on being (the Spanish definition for the verb ser) an Other-Other-Other as a queer Latina caught in two cultures and a divided home while reappropriating labels in both Americas.
Set to live music by the outstanding vocals of CAVA and saucy numbers provided by Walter Miranda in collaboration with Louie Pérezof Los Lobos, Shaunte Palmer and Clinton Cameron, this one-woman show captivates and sizzles...
The multi-layered synergy between music and story fleshes out a fragmentary narrative further smoothed over by the likability and confidence of a savvy performer who boldly defines herself. Portraying multiple characters, particularly her colorful family that includes a clownish mute brother armed with a horn and a father she romanticizes as singer James Brown, Anzoategui switches in and out of personas and accents with deft ability, humor and ardent expression. Remarkably, her own character isn't lost in the bouncing transformations as she emerges from a scattershot environment where being is always obliquely questioned and put to the test.
The spiral arc of the story swirls around Anzoategui's early fascination and love for soccer and her childhood hero, Diego Maradona. Much like the game itself, the play doesn't follow a typical structure, but rather works within the boundaries of Leah Ramillano's ingenious Astroturf patched set like a live match playing out between two teams of culture and personal conflict. Leading the story with fancy footwork both literal and figurative, Anzoategui dodges formula, only occasionally tripping over the lack of solid grounding of place and time in the rapid pace. There's a lot of action but like soccer the goals met within this piece tend to come from surprising turns and unpredictable twists. Played within a round, the audience takes on the role of cheering spectators with smart direction by Marcos Nájera utilizing the space to full effect.
There's been a proliferation of solo shows and this is where ¡Ser! runs a risk as the question why this story versus a two-hander or multiple cast production is a fair one to ask. Unlike most typical one-man/woman self-propelling pieces, Anzoategui's unique perspective on herstory and otherness challenges the notion of what it means to be apart from stereotype, borders, language, gender, sexuality and yet what it also demands to be within those constructs both as an individual and a performer but also a translator of sorts between the blurred lines of Other.
Anzoategui skirts past most of the inherent problems with solo shows by actually being herself, authentic, unguarded and always in motion as a storyteller and even as a soccer player. It is her multifaceted qualities that add luster, nuance, and presence to the quixotic keepie-uppie of being…who we are, wherever we are and with any luck, making a goal, be it with our head or our heart.
¡Ser! Runs through Dec. 8 Thurs, Fri & Sat @ 8 pm Sundays @ 3 pm Los Angeles Theater Center 514 S. Spring Street Los Angeles, CA 90013 (Ride the Metro to Pershing Square and walk 2 blocks) Tickets: $10-$30 PH: 866-811-4111 www.thelatc.org/2013/shows/ser
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