Unlike New York’s Latino theatergoers themselves, Latinologues is a show that has arrived here on what is sardonically called “Latin American time,” just a little late for its appointment with reality. Its arrival was inevitable—every immigrant group has perpetrated such shows on its road to assimilation—but timing is everything in the theater, and Latinologues‘ timing is several beats behind. Not only does its ungainly attempt to turn what are basically stand-up routines into character monologues sit awkwardly on a Broadway stage, but its characters are mostly stereotypes that have long since been outdistanced by a host of Latino writers and solo performers, some of whom, like Nilo Cruz and John Leguizamo, have already made a fair amount of headway on Broadway.
Not that Latinologues performers aren’t talented. Author Rick Najera, who reserves the show’s two most original characters for himself, displays a genuine actor’s versatility as well as a stand-up comedian’s room-working assurance. He’s especially funny as the assimilated Latino version of a good ol’ boy, a border patrol guard named Buford Gomez. Eugenio Derbez and Rene Laval go through their stereotype work with conviction, and Shirley A. Rumierk actually manages to invest two of the weariest roles on the world’s roster of clichés—a sincere hooker and a relentlessly inane pregnant teenager—with a touch of grace. Maybe Spanish-speaking theatergoers, who can get all the jokes we Anglo critics didn’t follow, will find more in the show. But surely they can have it all, less expensively, by staying home, where they all have the Fox network and their (according to Najera) illegally installed cable boxes. Somehow I suspect that the phrase sitcom at Broadway prices won’t translate all that well into Spanglish.