June is PRIDE month and the LGBTQ community puts on parades, celebrations, workshops, and performances to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan. This year’s Brown and Out Fest, at CASA 0101, brings to the stage a collection of 11 short plays that focus on the Los Angeles Latino Gay community. To be perfectly clear, the performances are for adults only. Don’t bring the kids.
The evening began with a dance performance by the Mexico Moderno Dance Academy. Their sensual choreography was thrilling, and their flowing costumes divine. I could have watched them all night. If I were younger I would have loved to join in.
It happens . . .
Producer/Director Matthew Ramos, who had also appeared in Casa’s musical production of Eastside Heartbeats did a quick introduction. However, there was a technical problem when the show started that had the audience sitting in darkness for a few minutes. Glitches like that occur even at big theaters so it was no big deal.
In fact, during an opening night performance of 9-5 at the Ahmanson, starring Allison Janney, the platform that made the set revolve stopped completely mid-song and the curtain was pulled to fix the problem. Dolly Parton was in the audience and stood up to sing a rousing rendition of 9-5 until the curtain rose up again.
Matthew similarly came back on stage with “That’s live theatre!” to audience applause.
Festival of LGBTQ short plays
Brown and Out Fest’s 11 short plays are based on real-life stories that were submitted during the year from members of the Latino LGBTQ community. Many of the vignettes deal with issues that are inherent in Latino culture where most are devoted Catholics and machismo, as well as large families, are the norm. It isn’t always easy to come out without repercussions.
The festival’s cast is comprised of gays, lesbians, transgender, and gender non-conforming actors. Some segments are racy starting with the opening rap song, so be prepared. Having been an actor since high school, it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before even way back when, when Stonewall took place, so I wasn’t shocked – but some people might be.
There were also videos interspersed with the live action including one about a transsexual hooker who had dreamed of being a schoolteacher.
Other vignettes dealt with more universal LGBTQ issues such as loneliness, guilt, cheating, flamboyance in the workplace, spirituality, and promiscuity.
Stand out Scenes
My favorite segment was called Zaddy. A gay man named Tomas (played by Giovanni Navarro) gets stood up by an online date. Mateo, an attractive older man, played by Teddy Rodriguez befriends him. He’s what’s known as a“zaddy” which is an older man who is attractive, fashionable, has sex appeal and swag. The dialogue between the two men is clever and funny.
The difference between a “zaddy” and a “sugar daddy” is that a “sugar daddy” doesn’t have to be attractive. He just needs to have big bucks.
There were a couple of sequences I didn’t really understand and a few that combined Spanish dialogue with English. I guess if I was gay and spoke Spanish it would make more sense but most of the audience seemed to understand it and found parts to be funny.
On the female side, in “Butch,” a lesbian (Stevie Vallejo) tells her girlfriend (Karina Contreras) a lie so she can go meet another girl (Bri Symone) but they both turn up in the same bar. The liar calls up her friend (Devan Torres -who is gender non-conforming) to come down to show her “girlfriend” that she wasn’t cheating. In the meantime, the girlfriend and the gender-neutral friend, meet in the bathroom and get it on.
It’s a fun and energetic show that combines humor and emotion as the players deal with the challenges of being a Latino LGBTQ. (see the definitions of LGBTQ+ here)
The Brown and Out Fest runs through July 7, 2019, at CASA 0101
2102 E. First St. LA CA 90033