Friday, September 12, 2008
Leticia Rodriguez’s charming one-woman show at the Mexican American Cultural Center is really a one-woman-and-three-musicians-and-a-crowd show. She is onstage throughout, but the magic of multimedia brings us video reminiscences from her family, photos, recorded music, visual jokes and a hectoring quizmaster running a zany bilingual quiz show.
The Big Question for the quiz show is “Eres tejana o coco?”
Are you a Texan with Mexican roots, or are you a coconut – brown on the outside, but white on the inside?
Rodriguez initially plays her young self in 1975 as a beauty queen contestant, aspiring to represent her community. But will she take the oath of allegiance to the Tejano community? Not whole heartedly? In that case, in multimedia dazzle, she is bounced into the quiz.
It’s a sly, funny, heart-warming gambit that gives her the opportunity to outline her roots, from five generations back, to mock stereotypes (frijoles or brisket? Selma Hayek is: a), b) or c)?) and to sit listening with us as her mother and aunt recall growing up Tejana.
My favorite was the translation test. “Traduzca lo siguiente!” booms out the announcer, with idiot cheerfulness:
- - “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam I am!”
- - “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked?”
- - “T’was brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabes/All mimsey were the borogroves, and the mome raths outgrabe!”
Increasingly frustrated, Rodriguez looks to be losing in the contest, until the announcer plays a bolero from the 1940’s and challenges her to identify the singer, then the song, and then the composer.
She beams and gets all three. And then she lets slip that the singer, Eva Garza, the “Sweetheart of the Americas,” was her maternal aunt.
From that point, despite the indignation of the unseen announcer (“Disqualified!!”), the quiz show slips away.
Rodriguez dons a fantastical dress made for Eva Garza by a Mexico City tailor. She delivers three beautiful numbers by Garza, accompanied by guitar, bass and drums, tying them together with memories of growing up to Tejano music.
Along with a double number by Armando Manzanero (“Somos Novios” in Spanish, which became “It’s Impossible,” popularized by Perry Como), she gives us Ernest Tubb’s “Waltzing Across Texas,” played at her own wedding. Other songs complete this 90-minute presentation.
Leticia Rodriguez is lovely, funny and a heck of a cabaret singer. She is a great advertisement for the advantages of growing up in many cultures at once.
John Aeilli of KUT radio ("Unleashed") discusses this production
Performance photo by Wenjing Zhang
Eva Garza biography
Eva Garza at Internet Movie Database
Eva Garza sings “Celosa” at YouTube
Armando Manzanero on Wikipedia