My Big Fat Quinceanera, !Salsation!, at Teatro Luna. Cultural heritage is obviously a point of pride with this predominantly Latino troupe, all of whom mention their ethnic ancestry in the program notes. And the American experience is all about figuring out your roots and bridging the gap between old-world traditions and New World multiculturalism. In the troupe’s new sketch revue, cavalier adolescents and stodgy elders butt heads constantly, as a patient’s mother and a doctor debate the merits of traditional medicine versus Santeria and a girl resists the pomp and circumstance of her cotillion.
To the troupe’s credit, the show never falls into the trap of what comedian Ali G calls “racialism”; this is multifaceted, sharply scripted comedy that both promotes the Latino voice and digs for universal truths. !Salsation! knows that it can get a rise out of its audience simply by mentioning Humboldt Park, and in past revues it’s gotten great mileage out of unpacking cultural stereotypes. But this hour-long show includes some profoundly weird sketches that point to a broadening of the company’s perspective. And the show’s bracketing device–a visitor from beyond files a “minority report” on Chicago’s Latino population–is subtle and ingenious. Even the gag-oriented stuff resonates; when Aztec warrior Montezuma is summoned to share his thoughts on war with Iraq, his utterly indifferent expression packs the kind of charge that can’t be transmitted in a punch line.