Theater Review INTRÍNGULIS (LAByrinth Theater Company in Hollywood)

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by Tony Frankel on November 20, 2010

in Theater-Los Angeles

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE TITLE OF THE SHOW MEANS BY THE END OF THE SHOW,
THEN SOMETHING AIN’T RIGHT.

Intríngulis is Carlo Albán’s true-life solo show about his family’s move from Ecuador to the U.S. and his life growing up as an illegal alien, even while starring in Sesame Street as a kid. The intrigue regarding an illegal on a children’s show is enough to get us into the theatre, but Intríngulis feels more like a showcase than a satisfying theatrical experience. Handsome Albán is a formidable talent: he sings Latin American ballads beautifully while accompanying himself on guitar; his gift of mimicry is marvelous; he’s an extraordinary writer, and he is capable of evoking sympathy without being maudlin.

For this solo outing to fly, however, it needs to be about something more than a hard-luck immigrant story. Even though his family had doors slammed in their faces when it came to garnering official legal status, they still had many of the same opportunities as those living here legally, such as schooling and, you know, being a TV star. It may sound cold, but when Albán tells us not to believe for one second that illegal aliens don’t pay taxes – they do – I wondered, ‘Should I feel sorry for them because some people think they don’t pay taxes, or is this merely an educational moment regarding taxation without representation?’

It’s difficult to relate to Albán’s plight as an immigrant who is trying to secure residency when he is telling us that he was a regular on a TV show. (Do you know how many actors would jump at the chance to move to Canada illegally if it meant they would be a series regular?) Even more ironic is that Albán never discloses how he got on Sesame Street – I would have been fascinated to know how an illegal alien managed to escape authorities while appearing on a national television show.

Albán tells us that his family became mired in bureaucratic red tape – spending tens of thousands of dollars towards legalizing the family, but how did they manage to make that much money while they, too, were illegals? (There was a scene where Albán plays a window washer, but it’s not exactly clear who he is impersonating.) Also, Albán relates that he bought a fake Puerto Rican birth certificate, only to have it absconded by the DMV. It would be satisfying to know how he ultimately received his license.

The show felt like a string of monologues and songs relating to the immigrant experience rather than true storytelling. It is a very straightforward account of a childhood in America, such as the scene where he chats with a friend while smoking pot and taking shots with an air gun at cars on the highway; in this truly well-written scene, Albán is astounded that he knows much more about history than his legal school chum does. The actor magnificently recreates a slice-of-life moment, but what is this moment about? What is he trying to say? Am I to infer mere ironic intent?

Albán’s story feels somewhat redundant and could have ended at any time throughout the latter part of the evening. What was missing most of all was a dramatic arc leading to a conclusion that ties the evening together; there was no suspense, no shock, and surprisingly little emotion.

Your take on Intríngulis largely depends on your take on political correctness. The immigration situation in America is far more complicated than bureaucracy and family ties. If you already feel pity for the immigrant experience, this show will offer no new insights, but will certainly justify your pity: the torn family, the educated immigrant that must take a job beneath his qualifications, the feeling-like-an-outsider in a country you call your own (even if you are here illegally), etc.

The immigration story in America is not unique to Latin Americans; this same story has been told time and again, and is no longer compelling enough to sustain a solo theatre piece, regardless of how astounding the performer’s talents may be.

By the way, I looked up the meaning of ‘intríngulis’ in a Spanish dictionary. It means an ulterior motive or hidden meaning, a mystery or an enigma. Intríngulis is indeed an enigma, but if there is an ulterior motive, Albán never lets us in on it.

Intríngulis
LAByrinth Theater Company
Lillian Theatre, 1076 N. Lillian Way in Hollywood
ends on December 8, 2010
for tickets, visit LAB Theater

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