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Friday, March 31, 2017

‘Los Otros’ World Premiere at Everyman Theatre

Written by  Ryan Clark
 ‘Los Otros’ World Premiere at Everyman Theatre credit: Clinton B Photography

It’s always exciting to see new theatre work happening in Baltimore. While the Hippodrome presents revivals of popular Broadway musicals, Everyman Theatre (just a few blocks west) is taking a big risk by bringing an entirely new musical theatre to Baltimore.

Los Otros (“The Others”) tells the story of Lillian and Carlos, who are navigating culture, racism, immigration, and sexual identity in the mid to late 20th century. We first meet the child Lillian, who is captivated with a Mexican migrant family – she and her friends provide food for the immigrants in secret. This fascination with “the other” continues throughout her adulthood, manifesting itself in many forms including, a one-night stand with a young Mexican boy and a fraught relationship with a Mexican maid. Next we meet Carlos, who after experiencing a terrifying hurricane with his mother, relocates to America as a young boy. We learn of his early homosexual urges and his battle with assimilation. Both of these narratives are told separately through a series of musical ballads. It isn’t until the final moments of the play that the relationship between Lillian and Carlos becomes clear.

Aptly directed by Everyman Theatre’s new associate artistic director Noah Himmelstein, the production features two New York powerhouses – Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez. These two actors completely drive the action of this musical while never leaving the stage for 90 minutes. Daniel Ettinger’s set creates a gorgeous world of Southwestern earth tones complimented by a sliding set of upstage walls that reveal regional California carvings.

The challenge with Los Otros is the lack of conflict in the script – the play is essentially two “one person shows” (in musical form.). While I’m a fan of some solo-performance theatre (David Drake’s The Night Larry Krammer Kissed Me is a stand-out), the struggle with this type of theatre is creating conflict without another actor on the stage. During Los Otros I was reminded of the Greek theatre where all of the action occurs off-stage. Characters tell the audience what happened thus creating conflict. Los Otros missed the mark because (with a few notable exceptions) the “off stage” conflict wasn’t that dynamic. This entirely rests at the feet of Ellen Fitzhugh’s tepid book and lyrics. Hernandez and Mclane along with Himmelsein’s direction do the best with what they’ve got.

Finally, the play does have some golden moments about immigration, white privilege, and sexual identity that resonate in the current political climate. I also applaud this effort to bring new work like this to Baltimore – a town often drowned in revivals!

For more information about Los Otros, check out Everymantheatre.org.

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