KISS MY AZTEC! is as risqué/irreverent as its title at Berkeley Rep.

(l to r) Angelica Beliard (Ensemble), Zachary Infante (Sebastian), Yani Marin (Colombina), Maria-Christina Oliveras (Tolima), Chad Carstarphen (El Jaguar Negro), Joél Pérez (Pepe), Jesús E. Martínez (Ensemble), Desiree Rodriguez (Pilar), KC de la Cruz (Ensemble), and Richard Henry Ruiz (Ensemble) in the world premiere of “Kiss My Aztec!” at Berkeley Rep, directed by Tony Taccone. Photo courtesy of Alessandra Mello/Berkeley

                                                                                           EXTENDED TO JULY 14, 2019

KISS MY AZTEC! Musical. Book by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone. Music by Benjamin Velez. Lyrics by David Kamp, Benjamin Velez, and John Leguizamo. Based on an original screenplay written by John Leguizamo and Stephen Chbosky. Directed by Tony Taccone. Berkeley Rep: Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley, CA. 510 647-2949 or   May 28–July 14, 2019.

KISS MY AZTEC! is as risqué/irreverent as its title at Berkeley Rep. Rating: ★★★★★

John Leguizamo captured audiences at Berkeley Rep three years ago with his solo performance of Latin History for Morons that was directed by Tony Taccone that insisted “Life would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.” He continues that thought with this latest irreverent production that again is not for the lady in Dubuque but that’s her problem while for us it is a mind blowing pleasure. This time he has teamed up with Taccone to write the book who also directs and is to be his last performance as Berkeley Rep’s artistic director. He is going out with a bang.

The descriptive words “Latin” and “Hispanic” have been replaced by “Latinx” as more descript of those south of the border cultures that encompasses the Incas and Aztecs who created fantastic cultures that were destroyed by the Spanish Conquistadores. The show is a mash up of musical genres including “fusion of bolero, hip-hop, merengue, and rap, plus an uproarious mash-up of 16th-century and modern slang.”

At its heart it is a satirical peon to Latinx culture fused with conquest, love, lust, rebellion, history, modern culture filled with energetic acting, dancing, sight gags and staging clothe in fantastical costumes that must be seen to believe. An only improvement would be to turn down the decibel level and still maintaining the fast and furious action.

The scene is set somewhere in the 16th century with the coming of the Spaniards in “White People on Boats.” They control and subjugate the inhabitants (don’t refer to them as ‘natives’).  The impetus for a rebellion against the Spanish conquerors is a prophesy suggesting the time is ripe but a sacred jewel must be found to carry out the deed. Our heroine Columbina (Yani Marin) a woman’s lib type takes on the task with “Don’t Tell Me What to Do.” That jewel is around the neck of the vain Spanish leader Rodrigo (Al Rodrigo) who sings “No One Compareth to the Spanish.”

Our soon to be male hero is the clown Pepe (Joel Perez) with hand puppets that later play a critical role in the storyline and injects humor along the way with a showstopper “Punk-Ass Geek.” Never fear the ensemble sings that they will “Make the Impossible Possible.”

When “Everybody Needth a Fixer” Pierre Pierrot (Richard Henry Ruiz) appears in white ermine coat and a humongous cod-piece that becomes imperative to the plot construction. There is much more modern satire to come and one of the best is “Tango in the Closet” sung by the Priest Reymundo (Chadk Carstarphen) and Rodrigo’s gay son Fernando (Sachary Infante) that might get the Catholic Church to ban this show. Sadly for Pepe his love for Colombina is dashed by “The Abstinence Song” before the first act curtain when the “Shit’s About to go Down.”

You might think that the group has run out of satire, sight-gags, dance numbers and whatever by the end of the first act. Do not despair. The second act is even more hysterical with the introduction of Rodrigo’s daughter Pilar (Desiree Rodriguez) who is trying to prove she is NOT a virgin and her hand maiden Tomila (Maria-Christina Oliveras) a mystic whose powers will be needed.

The authors are not above “borrowing” snippets from other authors that will have you snickering with understanding throughout the evening. One being a scene from Shakespeare’s “A Mid Summer’s Dream” that is hysterical. Skin color plays a major role and despite all the subjugation “the world is getting browner.”

Director Taccone’s spot on direction is greatly aided by the seven piece on-stage band, choreography by Maija Garcia, set and costume designs by Clint Ramos and lighting by Alexander V. Nichols. The individual cast members are all standouts and their competency is reflected in the superb ensemble.

It is a long evening of over two hours with an intermission. For some odd reason the opening curtain is delayed by two cast members “warming up” the audience by throwing beach balls at them. It is hardly necessary.  Highly recommended but could be shortened.

CAST: Angelica Beliard (Ensemble), Chad Carstarphen (El Jaguar Negro/Reymundo), Katherine “KC” Dela Cruz (Ensemble), Richard R. Henry (Pierre Pierrot), Zachary Infante (Fernando/Sebastian), Yani Marin (Colombina), Jesús E. Martínez (Captain Soldier), Maria-Christina Oliveras (Tolima), Joél Pérez (Pepe), Al Rodrigo (Rodrigo).

CREATIVE TEAM: Leguizamo and Taccone, Benjamin Velez (music, lyrics and arranger), David Kamp (lyrics), David Gardos (music supervisor), Simon Hale (orchestrator), Maija García (choreography), Clint Ramos (scenic and costume design), Alexander V. Nichols (lighting design), and Jessica Paz (sound design). Additional percussion arrangements by Wilson Torres.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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