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September 26, 2017

Fixed Attempts to Break Through Stereotypes.

by Patrick Hurley

By Patrick Hurley

In the ever-expanding canon of representational literature, where under-represented voices are, at long last, being heard, the theater scene is bristling with more and more stories about minorities from an internalized perspective. Fixed, the new play by Boni B. Alvarez, is another of these plays. Flouting political correctness and espousing cliché after cliché, Fixed unapologetically attempts to push the boundaries and is somewhat successful in doing so.

FIXED-22

Photo by Darrett Sanders

Set in a Filipino massage parlor called the House of Malacanang, which is owned and operated by no-nonsense Gigi (Boni B. Alvarez), we meet A trio of drag queens who work as the masseurs. There’s Jenny (Allen Lucky Weaver), Carmie (Tonatiuh Elizarraraz), and Miracles (Chris Aguila). Miracles is embroiled in an unhealthy relationship with Mariano (Wade Allain-Marcus) a Chicano man whose brother Hudson (Joseph Valdez) is running for LA Sheriff. Mariano and Miracles have romantic encounters at the massage parlor, despite Mariano’s insistence that he’s not gay. So right off the bat we’re dealing with a few cultural issues here. There’s the drag queen girly boy trope meeting Latino machismo. One embracing the hyper-and highly performative feminine, the other hyper-masculinized by a community still deeply rooted in traditional gender roles. Enter Lizette (Anna Lamadrid) the fiery Latina who, after one date with Mariano is slightly obsessed with him. Lizette represents something important in this play that oughtn’t be overlooked. She serves as an emblem of homophobia. But, it’s a bit simplistic and on-the-nose. Her rant, where she spews “gay” and “faggot” repeatedly almost doesn’t land because at this point we’re desensitized to the ubiquitous homophobia we can see in the world everyday. It shows that the mechanism against people who are gay, or any version of “other” is still to throw epithets, but in the absence of change, she is more a device than a character. This is not to dampen Anna Lamadrid’s performance. She makes the most of the role and is actually able to elicit some empathy from what is essentially a cardboard cutout of a character.

FIXED-65

Photo by Darrett Sanders

Mariano is the “closet case” in this play. His brother Hudson and Hudson’s wife Dana (Renee-Marie Brewster) serve as his foils, as reminders that he must uphold a certain image so as not to damage his brother’s chances at becoming Sheriff. And hanging out at a drag massage parlor known for its “happy endings” is not the way to go about it. Nothing revelatory about Mariano, and again in the absence of change or growth, he serves merely to propel other character’s motivations, where he lacks his own.

The two other massage parlor girls, Jenny and Carmie are pretty typical representations of submissive and bitchy queens. They represent loyalty to Gigi and to each other, while they spit insults to each other representing the competitiveness that gay men, and women must have against each other. So they serve as a sort of emblem of community in this play. Gigi, is the sharp-tongued, taser-wielding madam type, who only speaks her truth. She’s sort of the voice of reason in the piece, but also kind of a pimp, so it’s hard to fully be on her side. But Boni B. Alvarez has a lot of fun with the role, and deft comic timing which makes Gigi a force to be reckoned with. Which brings us to the protagonist, Miracles. She is a somewhat gentle and victimized character, pushed to her breaking point, whose catharsis is as disturbing as it is enraging. There is a sense of injustice at the end of this play, not only for the character but for us the audience. I don’t know if this is a problem with the script or the world itself, but it’s just not satisfying. The cycle of despair definitely continues in the world, but I had hoped for more.

Director Rodney To does a fantastic job with this piece. He sets it in an arena style, where parallel scenes take place one at a time on opposite sides, creating a nice rhythm. He also allows his actors enough freedom to go to the places they need to. Sometimes, however, there wasn’t enough reining-in, and some of the moments-a few too many-were reduced to actors just screaming at each other, and it was hard to focus on what they were saying at those times, but when this wasn’t happening, the cast was very compelling.

In the end, the message of the piece is a sobering one. There’s some cultural issues that were raised and not quite dealt with. The piece isn’t fully realized, it embraces stereotypes a bit more than it shatters them.  But maybe it will provoke, incite questions and start conversations that will someday afford characters like Miracles a greater destiny. One can hope.


Fixed

By Boni B. Alvarez

Directed by Rodney To

 

Echo Theater Company
Atwater Village Theatre
3269 Casitas Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039
Call 310-307-3753 or go to  www.EchoTheaterCompany.com
Visit us on facebook: www.facebook.com/echotheater
Follow us on twitter: @echotheater

TICKET PRICES:
Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays: $34
Mondays: $20

PARKING:
FREE in the Atwater Xing lot one block south of the theater

 

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carotid artistry

the double functions of the external and the internal

Patrick Hurley

Writes. Plays. TV. Film.

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