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Theater review: Festival can hit or miss

Three solid weeks displaying a different show is a lot. Perhaps too much. And with tickets at $28 for general admission or, if you are lucky, $22 for students and seniors, it’s terribly difficult to see more than one or two at the most.

Usually if you’re one of those “serious” theater people, you will need to find a grift in the system by volunteering or otherwise trading yourself for a chance to peek at a few interesting shows without crippling yourself financially.

Luckily, the Theatre Without Borders Conference was completely free. Sometimes it’s a crap-shoot, but sometimes you win big.

Easily one of the best performances I saw was “Gaytino!” a one-man show by Dan Guerrero, son of Chicano music legend Lalo Guerrero. Although there is a mix of multimedia, “Gaytino!” is largely a nonlinear autobiographical monologue of Guerrero’s chronicle starting in the 1950s East Los Angeles to New York in the ‘60s and ‘70s as a gay Latino. Guerrero has plenty of charm and joy for life and his own story. His winking asides to the audience are productions of delight and it’s impossible not to smile when he impishly sticks out his tongue when he realizes how funny he’s being. The man was made for the stage.

Although “Gaytino!” is largely a raucous work of comedy, Guerrero’s most powerful moments onstage involve his self-actualization as a gay man, as well as his many stories of his lifelong friend, Chicano artist Carlos Almaraz.

Now in his 70s, Guerrero shows no sign of slowing. If Albuquerque is lucky, Guerrero will return.

Although completely different, my favorite performance at this year’s Revolutions was “Beau & Aero,” a pair of clowns from Portland.

Clowns have a strange unfortunate stigma in U.S culture. But clowning is less about birthday parties and balloon animals and tiny cars in the circus and more in the vaudevillian tradition of Charlie Chaplin or Harpo Marx.

It’s nonverbal physical comedy in its purest form. And it’s glorious.

Clowning is largely so amazing because of its simplicity. The first rule of comedy, as they say, is timing. And that is what the essentials of clowning are stripped down to.

Audience participation is heavily encouraged: whoops, laughter, boos, cheers — anything. Clowning bits are simple: the clown finds an object and experiments. The audience is involved emotionally as the character plays, discovering what silly sounds a balloon can make, usually much to their delight.

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“Beau & Aero” were a duo of performers, each dressed in early 20th century pilot gear. Laughs could be produced simply with a big sigh and flipping of the silly flaps on the sides of their bomber helmets.

The male clown largely played a serious man to the floppy silliness of the woman, who would often spin the tiny propeller on her face. The exacting movements of the woman were graceful in addition to being hilarious, demonstrating a dancer’s control and awareness of her body.

I belly laughed. I applauded. I called for more. Hot from “Beau & Aero”, I was hungry for more.

Unfortunately, not everything can be so good.

At the Keshet Center for the Arts, the description for “The Woman Who Didn’t Want to Come Down to Earth” initially seemed promising. Clowning, acrobatics, no words, solo female performance, “the ground is lava”, it all sounded great.

And admittedly, the show started strong. The tiny, adorable woman was attempting to clean the stage riddled with props when her world seems to be interrupted by the sounds of bombing as large quantities of baby powder get farted onto the stage from the ceiling. This is evidently distressing to her, as she begins navigating the stage by hopping from object to object.

But once this scene ends, others begin, separated clearly by some clumsy curtains that don’t close all the way and rather pointless video projection. But then in future scenes, the woman is on the ground now. Why? The tension evaporates as she breaks her own rules. But mostly, her movements just become boring. Her objective is gone and I’m baffled by how slowly and purposely she sliding around on the ground. What is she doing exactly? It was suddenly hard to care.

Overall, quality, from show to show, was not a bad percentage. And if you can afford it, next year you can roll the dice again.

Time to start saving.

Graham Gentz is a theater and film reviewer for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at or on Twitter @DailyLobo.

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