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|A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
A Repertory of Drama! and I Remember Mapa
By Jana J. Monji
Imagine you're invited to the spacious, spare loft of one of your particularly animated, flamboyant friends. He's an actor and he's gay, in a very stereotypical way. Like most actors, he's a bit self-absorbed and, like most men, he loves to talk about himself, but that's really okay because he does it with such charm and self-deprecating humor the time slips by as you nod and laugh.
Alec Mapa's two autobiographical one-person comedies are filled with warmth and, despite the minimal set, the feeling is one of coziness. Chay Yew's sensitive direction and his visually simplistic imagery gorgeously realized in collaboration with lighting designer Rand Ryan brings a subtle subtext to Mapa's witty meanderings.
The background is a simple flat onto which vivid color (fuchsia, orange, etc.) is projected. The stage is defined by nine squares, lined up like the tic-tac-toe of Hollywood Squares that Mapa alludes to (as a kid he aspired to be in the square under Paul Lynde).
Mapa's only stage prop is a slate blue wooden chair. In I Remember Mapa, the chair is joined by a very 1960-ish yellow vinyl loveseat. Lights on posts from the sides illumine Mapa's figure, but Ryan also uses a spot, at times shaped as a square to express Mapa's misfit morass. Eventually, the spot becomes a circular light when Mapa finally fits into his life.
I Remember Mapa, the older piece, details his great luck as an actor--making it to Broadway (as an understudy) for a Tony-award winning play, David Henry Hwang's M. Butterfly. But being second best and mostly unseen isn't enough as he recounts in catty, bitchy delight. He does get to go on, and later plays the main character in the road show, but even his triumphant performance in Los Angeles doesn't bring him splashy roles in major movies or popular television series as he imagined. He sinks into the stereotypical actor job--waiting tables. Through Chay Yew, Mapa does finally find his way back to acting in a small off-Broadway production of Chay Yew's A Language of Our Own. Drama! is really Mapa's tale of coming out and embracing acting. He begins in a deep funk of "creative failure." The television show where he was to play "a stereotypical flamboyant homosexual" has been cancelled and he decides to run the Honolulu marathon because "the excruciating pain will take the edge off of unemployment". He recalls how he came to acting. There's romance, drugs, a little pedophilia glossed over (gay adults used and abused the young confused teen) and a poignant brush with AIDs. Mapa survived casual one-nighters and his druggie high school days, but not all his friends did.
Both plays are filled with recognizable moments--between parent and child, high school cool kids and nerds, lovers and friends. Ultimately, the effect is life affirming laughter, as if you spent a sweet evening with a dear, dear friend who just happens to be Filipino and gay.
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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©Copyright 2003, Elyse Sommer
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