Nosotros, is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1970 by Ricardo MontalbĂˇn. The mission of Nosotros is to improve the image of Latinos in the entertainment industry, promote employment in front of and behind the camera, and to provide educational opportunities for Hispanics in the Performing Arts. The first original theatrical production by the Nosotros American Latino Theatre (NALT), in the Ricardo MontalbĂˇn Theatre, is two one-act comedies by Jake Meyers which together are titled Transformations.
The first one-act, Lauren Martin, is about a woman's search for a broadcasting job in Los Angeles while dealing with her own issues of what it means to be "latina." Meyers chooses to create characters that fit into well-known stereotypes and the language is clichĂ© after clichĂ© with no real insight or new discovery about the theme of cultural identity. Estrella Tamez, who plays the title role, seems out of her element on the stage and her subdued performance is better suited in front of a camera. Eddie Diaz and Joel Roman give stand-out performances as a couple of stereotypical "chollos" in an East L.A. bar. They bring much needed laughs to a piece that is in desperate need of them.
In contrast, Meyer's second one-act, Close, But No Cohiba, is a much more accomplished piece. The writing is tighter, the characters are a bit more unique and evolved and the two fantasy musical numbers are clever and entertaining. The entire cast is good. Eddie Diaz is funny and adept as Jack, a man struggling with his masculine identity and how his angst affects himself and his friends around him. Les Borsay and Lawrence Smilgys alternate on different nights in the role of Sigmund Freud. Both create a unique and funny view of the father of psychology, while Borsay=s portrait is light and goofy, Smilgys' is dark and twisted.
Michael Koursaris, Antonio Vega, Doreen Calderon, and Joel Roman all stand-out with clearly defined and well-developed characters in both once-acts. David Llauger-Meiselman's direction is competent but the use of the three-quarter round stage is never fully realized. His staging of the musical numbers are clever and enormously entertaining.
I watched Transformations on two separate weekends and did see the growth and improvement that can come with live theatre. Unfortunately, the audience attendance was small which makes the actors jobs that much harder. But the Nosotros American Latino Theater company is young and only with the right nurturing and more productions taking advantage of the lovely space that is the Ricardo MontalbĂˇn Theatre, will they blossom. NALT has taken on an admirable task and hopefully they will continue to produce and develop emerging playwrights and artists that not only promote and help advance a Latino agenda and a strong place for Latino artists, but also transcend it.
by Jake Meyers
Directed by David Llauger-Meiselman
Produced by Felipe Alejandro
Runs through November 5
At the Ricardo MontalbĂˇn Theatre
1615 N Vine, Hollywood