EXCERPTS FROM THE REVIEW
Below are excerpts from the April 7, 2017 Washington Blade review of Los Otros.
‘LOS OTROS’ IS COMPELLING DRAMA AT BALTIMORE'S EVERYMAN THEATRE
Some two-person plays leave you longing for a third character to enter stage left and add something to the party. But that’s not the case with “Los Otros,” an understated yet wholly enjoyable musical by out composer Michael John LaChisua and Ellen Fitzhugh (book and lyrics).
Now at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, the two-hander stars Broadway actors Judy McLane and Philip Hernández who deliver knockout performances as middle-aged Californians with different, yet oddly parallel, lives.
“Los Otros” (which translates from Spanish as “The Others”) is brilliantly told from two perspectives. Lillian is white and Carlos is Latin. They take turns singing about their often challenging lives focusing on their relationships with people of the other’s ethnicity. Their tales are compelling and surprise-filled.
"Compelling and surprise-filled... raw, funny and so true to life."
For Lillian, the others are the Mexican immigrants. She grew up in public housing south of San Diego. During the boring summer of ’52, young Lillian broke the monotony by sharing food with undocumented Mexicans temporarily holed up in a nearby cave. As a divorced mother of two in the 1960s Lillian finds a nanny in Tijuana. It’s through her that Lillian learns firsthand about immigrant work ethic and the warmth of Latin culture. McLane shows her acting chops as Lillian circa 1970s, now a boozy bartender who deflowers an 18-year-old Latino as his friends look on.
Carlos’ others are the white Americans he’s known since he and his mother first came to the U.S. from Mexico. Subtly Hernández becomes a bright-eyed boy, recalling his love, a boy named Paco, and the summers he spent picking plums and exploring his sexuality under the watchful eye of the crusty white overseer.
Later, he’s an accountant living a middle-class life with his white partner. He’s become assimilated. Carlos remembers going to tag sales and remarking on the number of Mexicans shopping there, and grows weary of his partner’s hoarding. Flashes of anger are tempered by a humorous sensibility at turns wry and a little fey.
Eventually Lillian and Carlos’ lives intersect in a surprising and almost too-neat way, which I won’t reveal here.
The story covers decades and isn’t a linear narrative, yet it moves seamlessly thanks to Fitzhugh’s impeccable writing and out director Noah Himmelstein’s lucid staging. LaChiusa’s score is imbued with Latin rhythms, big band sounds and pop influences. Not particularly hummable, the score is pleasing and emotion-filled. It works with deceptively simple, conversational lyrics. Fitzhugh’s book is semi-autobiographical. Raw, funny and so true to life, her dialogue never once rings untrue.
This production is an Everyman-commissioned reimagining of the original “Los Otros” that debuted in Californian in 2012. Daniel Ettinger’s superb, unfussy set features two Mexican-inspired moving filigree panels lit with sunshine or moonlight by lighting designer Nancy Schertler. Costume designer David Burdick dresses the fit cast members in flattering street clothes. She wears tight jeans and a black camisole. He’s in trousers and, when not bare-chested, a T-shirt.
“Los Otros” is beautifully timely. In an era of Trump’s wall and increasing feelings of anti-immigration from some sectors, it shows that we are more alike than different.