All About Meat (The Garcias) is by turns hilarious, over-the-top irreverent, grotesque, and exasperating -- and it has uniformly fine performances by a relentlessly spirited cast. Writer/director/player Michelangelo Alasá might be said to be attempting to meld the style of Pedro Almodovar with that of John Waters (with a good helping of vaudeville slapstick). First and foremost, this is a sex comedy about a family of Cuban origin, the wealthy Garcias, whose chorizo factory in New Jersey is the largest in the world.
At the pork-sausage-making family's helm is matriarch Dolores, who is dramatic, emotional, knifing, and manipulative, and whose thick Spanish accent seems at times to require subtitles when she is emoting (and she hardly ceases her emoting).In fact, just about all the action of the play prompts Dolores to "emote." Dolores's husband, Carlos, is a not-too-forceful mature gentleman with good posture who in his youth was an actor, having appeared in numerous lurid films. The affluent couple have two sons: the hyper-effeminate Pepito, with a thick accent which equals (and sometimes surpasses) that of his mother; and the absent Carlito, who is to be married to the buxom Jennifer (of southern white-trash origin). The never-seen Carlito has two children in their late teens, pretty Marcia and exceedingly handsome Winston. Being second-generation grandchildren of Cuban immigrants, they lack accents and do not emote. They are akin to Marilyn Munster, the normal one in the eponymous TV series, and scenes in which Marcia and Winston appear are welcome pauses from the dramatic and sometimes unintelligible turbulence that precedes and follows them.
Now I have nothing, per se, against accents. My grandmother hardly spoke English, and I had a host of other relatives who spoke broken English -- but they were seldom emoting and yelling at the same time. To be fair, the play does include quieter moments. Florinda Taqueria (AKA Lucretia Lopez), something of a rival of the overpowering Dolores, has a mellifluous soft-spoken seductive way about her, but she is not a Garcia.
Appearing later is a new refugee relation from Cuba, Manny, having recently "swam" his way to freedom. He is definitely a Garcia and built like Latin God. Dolores has a lover on the side: Francois La Verge, whose French accent gives us a bit of vocal variety. Now just imagine all these characters getting mixed up together. One can see the opportunities for comedy just in describing the Garcia clan and their associates.
In addition, All About Meat (The Garcias) includes just about the most inventive use of rear projected images that I have ever seen in a theatrical production. The perfectly timed, amusing, and often startling images punctuate the comedy, artfully enhancing the hoopla. The projected posters of the steamy films in which Carlos Garcia starred in his younger days prior to becoming a sausage king are almost worth the price of admission alone.
My only qualm is that I wish I understood all the dialogue. There were moments when I had no idea what was going on. Ultimately, I figured it out, but it was a bit exasperating having to work at that. Notwithstanding this reservation, the superb performances by all the players compensated for occasional lapses into the unintelligible.
Picture an angry and frustrated Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy in drag locked in a battle with Lupe Velez, the tempestuous Mexican Spitfire of 1940s movies, and you will get a sense of much of the dialogue of this play as it courses through intricate and absurd situations, many of which are absolutely hilarious. The play includes a great deal of fine comic acting and abundant and amusing twists. For example, Dolores and company try to make-over southern belle Jennifer into an acceptable Cuban bride for Carlito. (They fail miserably!) Winston has this bright idea to broaden the sausage business with an escort service, putting newly arrived muscleman Manny to work. Who is his first customer? Well, it has to be kept in the family, huh? (Maybe. Maybe not.) And there is a great deal more to enjoy, especially the outstanding acting of each member of the cast.
Mario Bosquez plays mama Dolores Garcia with enormous energy, and maintaining this very active, forceful, and comic characterization takes a measure of skill and stamina only an accomplished actor can offer. Michelangelo Alasá's dignified (though sometimes silly) husband Carlos, is a fine counterpoint to the overpowering Dolores. Antonio Miniño's relentless ultra-fey Pepito plays like a Harpo Marx gone gay. Cat Lippencott is a perfect white-trash Jennifer, and is also excellent when doubling as Gladys and Anna May Wong-Carbonell. Fresh-faced Mark Moore gives a solid, natural, and earnest performance as young Winston in his first appearance on stage. Susana Pérez is perfectly cast as the winsome Marcia. Facundo Rodriguez (above right) as Manny is a real hunk, and is very much an actor as well. Pooya Mohseni (above left) is wonderful as Florinda Taqueria/Lucretia Lopez, with a kind of seductive poise that makes you want to see more of her. Sandor Juan as Dolores's side romance does a fine turn as her French lover.
All in all, All About Meat (The Garcias) is a worthwhile, hilarious, albeit intense foray into the world of outrageous farce.
Also worth noting:
Michelangelo Alasá's Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict is a theatrical installation with actors, video, and smoke effects. It features several cast members from All About Meat (The Garcias), and additional actors.It will be presented on Mondays at 8 PM from November 5 to December 17, 2012. Tickets are free at SmartTix; reservations are required. - Jay Reisberg
Photo credit: Nicholas Marcellos
Mr. Reisberg is a UCLA film school grad, professional singer, comedian, and bon vivant at large.