Phoenix Theatre Artists and Company One could easily pack the house for co-produced “Learn to be Latina” simply by mentioning that two hot girls make out in the second act. But there’s more to this delightful camp-fest than tight clothes and girl-on-girl — and not-so-tastefully simulated man-on-man — action.
Beneath the high-octane spoof of life in the music business, “Latina” is a scathing commentary on an industry mired in selling oneself to turn a profit. Everything from ethnicity to orientation needs corporate approval and if you want it badly enough, even those can be changed.
Director Greg Maraio smartly avoids getting heavy-handed with this message, opting instead for an engaging, almost frivolous production. Whether it’s the disturbingly autocratic executive meetings at Funky Artist Development (FAD), the brilliant spoof of “Ellen” or the buffoonery of the Ph.D./MBA calling the shots, “Latina” never takes itself too seriously. The entire ensemble goes way over the top and their joy at doing so is highly contagious.
Shawna O’Brien is superb as Hanan, the artist selling out for the sake of stardom. Pop-star looks and sassy attitude aside, O’Brien’s layered performance is what makes this production work. Kristina Kattar also shines as Blanca (aka Office Bitch), the lone voice of reason in the chaos.
In dual roles as sock-puppet wearing executive Mary and Latina talk show hostess Elena, Crystal Lisbon earns rave reviews. Rounding out the ensemble is a trio of spot-on performances by Maureen Adduci, Rory Kulz and David Giagrando as befuddled sycophants desperately angling to get ahead.