Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
December 2, 2011
Well, what’s a misfit to do? Socially or ethnically inappropriate? Just create a new world – or a new you. That’s what transpires in two local productions: “ Ragnarok ” and “Learn to be Latina.”
“ Ragnarok ” is kind of the End of Days in Norse mythology. It’s also a world premiere, written by Katherine Haroff for her Circle Circle dot dot Theatre, a local collaborative that develops new work based on stories from the company or community. Their first effort focused on relationship breakups. This time, it’s LARPers , which is to say, live–action role players, AKA gaming geeks. But there’s loving attention to detail in the piece, which begins with an intense game of Dungeons and Dragons. One member suggests takin ’ it to the streets, enacting their characters and fighting their battles in 3-D and real-time.
Haroff , who also plays a small role, has created thoroughly credible characters who have believable conflicts. I have it on very good authority – my gaming husband – that the types of players, their fantasy personas, their quests and quibbles, are all highly authentic. The performers bring fire, humor and heart to their roles. And the stage combat is terrific.
These are self-proclaimed nerds who don’t quite fit into their everyday world, so they escape to another one, where they can be wizards and warriors, heroes all. This sub-culture used to be almost exclusively male, but there are more and more female players. “ Ragnarok ” features cooperative and destructive women, gals who fight like demons and one who wields her sexuality like a weapon (a nasty, super-hot manipulator, deliiciously played by Soroya Rowley). Except for some troublemaking intruders, there’s a commendable sense of community among the players, and a sweet conclusion to the play.
The costumes, lighting and especially the sound enhance the action. You’ll be entertained and maybe even enlightened; after all, there are dorks and orks among us everywhere.
Far less fantastical or satisfying is the current production at Diversionary Theatre, a supposed satiric comedy that is neither satirical nor comical. Enrique Urueta’s 2010 play, “Learn to Be Latina,” is shrill and unsubtle, juvenile in its humor and pubescent in its raunchiness.
The premise is fascinating, though: a talented young singer is considered to be “unmarketable,” because she’s Lebanese. If she wants to make it big, she’s told, she should be refashioned as a sizzling Latina. Prepare for every sexual and multicultural stereotype in the book. Most are wince-worthy, and not because they’re politically incorrect. Because they’re lame and silly, gross and adolescent. Still, Tamara Dhia makes a wonderful transformation, and as her secret love, Olivia Espinosa is genuine and blessedly understated. The idea had potential. The production had a director. But neither panned out.
Personally, I’d rather hang with the dwarves and elves.
The Circle Circle Dot Dot production of “ Ragnarok ” runs through December 10 at the 10th Avenue Theatre downtown.
“Learn to be Latina” continues through December 18 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights.
©2011 PAT LAUNER