Los Angeles Theater Review: THE LATINA CHRISTMAS SPECIAL (Los Angeles Theatre Center)

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by Tony Frankel on December 15, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles


A friend mentioned that three comediennes–a Cuban American from Miami, a Mexican American from Texas, and the daughter of an “over-dedicated Mexican mother and a compliant Lithuanian father” from Sun Valley, CA–are putting on a show in which they indulge in reminiscences about their childhood Navidades (Christmases). He invited me, but I declined, telling my friend I would rather keep that appointment I had to be boiled in pudding and buried with a stake of holly through my heart. Please, I whimpered to the universe, no more Christmas shows


Later, yet another fellow theatergoer recommended the same show: The Latina Christmas Special at the Los Angeles Theater Center (LATC). This time I blamed a packed schedule for saying “no.” But then I found out that LATC has begun an experiment to add Monday performances to their runs, something Chicago has been doing with great success; that’s how I got to see ’57 Chevy last month at the downstairs theater. When any troupe breaks itself out of the box like this, support must be made.


I’m not alone in that theory. The house was absolutely packed last night, and I had a surprisingly good time. The entertainment is basically three stand-up monologues written and performed by Diana YanezSandra Valls, and Maria Russell. At turns silly, touching, and universal to any patron, the winning actresses find both humor and pathos in their memories of family get-togethers and, more importantly, mom (and, boy, can these ladies move!). Learning about subcultures (such as Yanez teaching how Cubans dance and the many uses of the catch-all word “coño“) was often quite funny, but the vulnerability associated with being a fish-out-of-water at the holidays (as most of us are) should be relatable to anyone in our multiethnic society.

Photo 5 - Sandra Valls - Photo by Chaz PhotographicsGuided by director Geoffrey Rivas, the monologues are given a context that helps make the show more real: The gals are getting together at Sandra’s house (a nicely detailed yule set by Michael Navarro) to party, pass out gifts, and slam back tequila. As they pull out actual family photos, pictures are projected on the upstage wall–a very nice touch.

The show has been morphing since its original outing in 2013, and while I enjoyed myself, I think there’s more to be done. I’ve never been a fan of unnecessarily breaking the fourth wall–I would have much preferred that they were lifelong friends who have a slumber party/reunion and divulge childhood memories to each other. The more they drink, the more revealing they become. I mean, it’s fun to have them speak directly to audience members, but the device of monologues gets a bit wearying, and the ending goes for the gut but feels a bit overwrought.

Nonetheless, I was injected with holiday spirit through all things tinsel and tamales. The show closes December 20, and is practically sold out, so get some tickets as stocking stuffers now.

Photo 2 - (l to r) Diana Yanez and Maria Russell - Photo by Xavi Moreno

Photo 6 - (l to r) Maria Russell and Sandra Valls - Photo by Chaz Photographicsphotos by Xavi Moreno and Chaz Photographics

The Latina Christmas Special
presented by The Latino Theater Company
Los Angeles Theatre Center, 514 S. Spring St.
ends on December 20, 2015
EXTENDED to January 10, 2016
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 3
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit LATC

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