Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown

Pain is funny. That’s why slapstick gets laughs–and why subtler studies like the Borderlands Theater’s one-man show Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown are hilarious. In this series of finely crafted comic monologues we’re introduced to a full range of flawed, self-torturing Latino males: a naive young gay immigrant, a bitter kept man who’s been jilted, a closeted middle-aged guy, an angry, self-loathing ESL teacher. Each character has his own loopy story, and each lives in his own hilarious private hell. The teacher secretly hates the English language for its difficulty, and the jilted lover keeps hoping against hope that his sugar daddy will beg him to come back. In less capable hands these tales could seem cruel or, at the other extreme, maudlin. But playwright Guillermo Reyes writes with wit and restraint, knowing just how much to reveal. Again and again he asks us to first laugh at his characters, then empathize with them–a difficult trick he executes handily. It helps that the Tucson-based Borderlands Theater was able to find chameleonic comic actor Andres Alcala to play all the roles. He transforms himself in a matter of seconds from a sweet, still-green immigrant to a jaded gigolo to an envious teacher old before his time, revealing at every turn the truth of the Mel Brooks quip that tragedy is me cutting my finger, comedy is you falling down an open manhole and breaking your neck. The performance is part of “New Play 2000,” a four-month festival presented by the Prop Theatre Group and the National New Plays Network. Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts, 66 E. Randolph, 312-742-8497. Opens Thursday, July 27, 8 PM. Through July 30: Friday-Saturday, 8 PM; Sunday, 7 PM. $15 or “pay what you can.” Note: Borderlands offers a theater workshop on Wednesday, July 26, at 11 AM at the Field Museum of Natural History, Roosevelt at Lake Shore Dr. (use west side entrance). Free, but preregistration is required; call 773-486-7767 for more information.

–Jack Helbig

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Wayne Pearce.