Mina Olivera’s grandmother has always told her one thing: “Show them your worth.”
This phrase would be the backdrop by which an exuberant girl from Brazil would try to live her life. Perceived by her grandmother to be the reincarnated soul of the baby daughter she lost when she was a young woman, Mina develops a very strong bond with her grandmother. The daughter of a filmmaker and a U.N. Diplomat, her family was not especially rich or even well off. The better part of her young life was spent globetrotting to places like Switzerland & El Salvador. It is under her mother’s charge in El Salvador that she would learn the first hard lesson a teen-aged girl would learn in her real relationship. It would be in San Francisco, America where she would find and embrace her love of acting and experience her first real taste of bigotry. But it would be in her grandmother’s words that she would find the strength to continue to chase her dreams.
Mina Olveria and director Alberto Barboza have crafted a fine biographical performance piece for the young actress. Her spirit and naïveté are quite charming. She makes great use of the large stage space by breaking into spontaneous choreography on more than one occasion (the chosen form of expression for her people). However, Olivera does not quite have the magnitude of presence to fill this stage. Her stories are told with vivid innocence, but not especially engrossing. “Latina on the Loose” is the story of most every young adult of color who comes to California with stars in their eyes. So I’m a bit hesitant to give the content more weight than it is due. A coming-of-age story is not complete with the “virginity” and “first love” parables, which Olivera performs with great humor and introspective whimsy. This production should certainly be given credit for its nod to cultural heritage, for its spotlight on the importance of one’s extended family and for its prevailing spirit of youth and hope.
Oliveria’s most memorable characters are Marie Jose, the Power Latina from Huntington Beach who actually introduced the show; and then of course, her wise, kind, unabashedly biased, vision-wielding Grandmother. The Latter woman would impart words to live by her entire life, while the former would school her on the rules to survival for a young talented Latina actress in Southern California.
The imaginative set design worked wonders in transporting the audience from one continent to the next. Designed as kind of wide runway, a painted canvas traversed the center of the stage. Complete with images of a compass and the continent of North America, the set piece stretched from thrust to upstage, and then continued arching upward to provide a blank angular surface upon which video images are projected throughout the performance. This is a very nicely conceived set, coupled with well planned, creative lighting design.
LOL! Latina on the Loose is running now through October 11, 2009 at:
Los Angeles Theatre Center
514 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 3pm
(Dark Oct 3rd)
Reservations: (323) 489-0994 ext. 107