By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
As important a revival as Beautiful Señoritas is for this city (and the country, for that matter) at a moment when Hispanics are asserting their influence more than ever in the economy and matters of public policy, I'm not sure that director Marisela Barrera has let the material cook quite long enough. She co-directed Octavio Solis' Dreamlandia with Richard Hamburger at the Dallas Theater Center and wrote, directed, and starred in an equally confrontational one-act--los de abajo have nowhere left to fall--at the Festival of Independent Theatres, so it's curious that the political edge seems to have been blunted in Prida's show in favor of a goofier, more Fox Network/WB kind of approach. The gutsy ethnic partisanship surfaces constantly on the page, but the actors tend to go for the easy laughs more than an informed chuckle triggered by all the layers of the playwright's ideas. That they usually succeed means you'll have a good time for your ticket money, but you might leave the theater believing half of Prida's mission remains unfulfilled.
A couple days ago, Valerie and I met over a lunch of gumbo and fried oysters and discovered that we agreed about far more than we disagreed: Multiculturalism has deteriorated from its original best intentions; theater should strive for the universal no matter what ethnic flavor it's served in; casts composed entirely of one gender or the other can be stifling; 98 percent of the human population looks awful in tights, etc. Then we got to The Letter, the one crucial point at which we parted. Brogan insists she didn't mean to include me among the ranks of men who write "like bored, gay, white, leotard-wearing, Fireside Theatre-subscribing New Yorkers...who only ever hung out with themselves." Maybe it's the Texas heat, editing a 432-page Best of Dallas issue, or that damned Dr. Laura (at this point in time, we gay men can blame everything from gray chest hairs to shoddy dating material on the good doctor), but I'm still not sure, and am a little sore over the isolation of gay and lesbian adolescents being, in my opinion, glossed over. But Brogan, a PFLAG member, was genuinely concerned and even apologetic that, in her estimation, I'd misinterpreted her sentiments as homophobic. And I, fixated on a couple of paragraphs, didn't remember she'd written, "And no, you cannot print a word of this letter" until after I fired cannons in my column.
Our meal included the exchange of some really tasty gossip. When people pick up dish, that usually means they've laid down their arms. Brogan herself saw no point in addressing the issue again in print, but since this is a pretty small theater town, and I will be encountering her work and encountering people who read the piece (very likely, at the same time), I felt that some clarification of a spat turned public should be noted.
And no, the editors didn't make me. I knew that a meeting and another mention would be inevitable after the vehemence of my statements about Brogan. But one bemused boss did suggest that what I wrote about Brogan last week pretty much killed any chance that I would get another mention on the "Letters to the Editor" page.