Brown Americans watch Brown Americans on stage, totally get the immigration thing.
by Ramona Pilar Gonzales
pLAywriting in the city
There are a slew of details that make live theater better than other cultural experiences. It can be vivid and experiential in a way that 2D art forms can’t. Smaller venues have an advantage over the larger ones in this regard in that they have the ability to create an instantaneous enveloping ambience. And when you have the opportunity to see characters from your life that actually look like you, on stage, the experience is much more welcoming and engaging.
Flipzoids, written by Ralph B. Peña, was first produced at New York’s Ma-Yi Theater Company in 1996, and presents a prism of an immigrant experience. The story follows three immigrants who were born in the Philippines, but arrived to the U.S. at different stages of their lives. Ai-Ying (Becca Godinez), brought to the U.S. by her daughter, is aging and progressively forgetful. She lives in the memories of her hometown whereas her daughter Evangeline (Ellen D. Williams), often embarrassed by her mother’s adherence to the old ways, does everything thing she can to replace the past with a “better” present. Redford (Maxwel Corpuz) is a young, gay man in his early 20s, whose search for connection in an isolated world leads him to frequent a secluded men’s restroom at an Orange County beach in hopes of nothing more than conversation. Redford, who has no memory of his country of origin, meets Ai-Ying at the beach one day and the two strike up a friendship out of curiosity and a need to be listened to and respected.
Becca Godinez’s Ai-Ying was a beautiful powerhouse. Her performance wasn’t performative, as she truly took on the life and characteristics of this amazing provinciana. This connection to character was missing in the other two actors, who are obviously well trained and proficient, but didn’t seem to fully connect with their character and dialogue. This is most noticeable in Corpuz’s Redford, who had some of the more poetic, abstract dialogue in the piece, and at times, seemed to be focused more on his character’s affectations than in the lines he was delivering. However, when both characters interacted with Godinez, all of that was out the door. She was able to bring them down to the kind of slightly heightened realism that makes live theater so wonderful.
Other reviews of this play see this immigration tale from an outsider perspective, taking the view that one is either an “American” or an immigrant, either fully acculturated and assimilated or, as one reviewer put it “fresh off the boat” (which was a scathing pejorative when I was a kid – how times have changed). What I saw, however, was not an “immigrant” narrative, per se. I saw my cousin, my mom’s nursing school friends and even my grandmother on stage. It makes complete sense that producing partners PAE Live! and The Latino Theater Company would combine efforts to bring a truly Californian experience to the stage. I, for one, look forward to more productions that understand these nuances. As do my ticket buying contemporaries.
Flipzoids written by Ralph B. Peña and directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera. Presented by PAE Live! and The Latino Theater Company. The show runs Saturday, October 6 at 8 p.m. through Sunday, October 28. Regular show times are Thurs.- Sat. at 8:00, Sun. at 3:00. Running time is 85 minutes, no intermission at Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre 4, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, CA 90013.
ADMISSION: $30. Students, seniors and groups of ten or more, $20. LATC members $15. A limited number of tickets will be available for Thursday performances at $10. Previews: $10. SPECIAL: A dinner and-show option is available on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. A $50 package ticket includes admission to the show plus dinner at the nearby Portofino Restaurant (5th & Main Sts.). For RESERVATIONS call toll-free, (866) 811-4111. ONLINE TICKETING: http://www.thelatc.org