Latinologues | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Latinologues, at Bailiwick Repertory. This collection of comic monologues--written and directed by Rick Najera and performed by Najera and a rotating cast--attacks stereotypes the old-fashioned way, not only debunking their distortions but humanizing them by sheepishly acknowledging their occasional basis in fact. To the wrong crowd, this maliceless show might at times come off as politically incorrect. But its overriding message of compassion, tolerance, and understanding is so apparent that only a completely humorless person would object to its excesses. At two hours plus, however, it seems too long, a feeling aggravated by a late start and closing question-and-answer session--time that would've been better spent on an intermission.

But on the whole Latinologues is funny, sometimes thought-provoking stuff, for which the cast deserves a lot of credit. Elena Sotomayer and Shanna Montenaz pull off the hardest sells: though Najera does a nice job with most of the script, his tendency toward overearnestness is most pronounced in the female roles (except for an unhinged bit about Miss Pilsen). Sammy Publes also does good work with some relatively sober material, and as an actor Najera is pretty droll. The star, however, is clearly the charismatic Jacob Vargas, whose hilarious, physically intense portrayals give equal depth to a gangbanger, busboy, and would-be illegal alien.

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