IHate4w_HunterCanning

I Hate Fucking Mexicans Bites Hard at The Flea Theater

IHate4w_HunterCanning

Despair not, gentle reader, for this is not that kind of tale. I mean, it IS that kind of tale, on the surface, but it’s quite clearly meant to be taken liberally with the biggest grains of salt you could ever hope to nestle snugly between tongue and cheek. At least, I would hope that much is clear. See, I Hate Fucking Mexicans (the name should clue you in) is not a play about reasonable people getting on with their reasonable lives. It’s about a group of down-home, backwater, liqueur-swilling, overall-wearing, trash-talking, sister-loving, hayseeds with an overabundance of rage, more than their fair share of territorialism, a thoroughly skewed sense of social justice, a penchant and gift for cussing the likes of which I have never before witnessed, and a distinct alien problem. It is not a show for the squeamish, the sensitive or the faint of heart. When it comes to political incorrectness, Book of Mormon has nothing on this lot.

Before the lights even went down the audience was treated to an amusing set of theater previews in the form of a tirade of casual bigoted vitriol by actor (and sound tech) Adriano Shaplin. It was a good indication of what was to come. Far from being an attack on Mexicans, this show is what my mother would call “equal opportunity offensive,” and between the ramp-up and the actual show no ethnic group is spared. Especially Americans. When the lights went down we were exposed to several minutes of what I can only attempt to call interpretive dancing, and I was a tad concerned for the production. However, this one musical interlude had little, if anything, to do with the rest of the play and I can only continue to scratch my head at its inclusion. But then the words began to flow.

Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio (LEGOM) has produced a script — here translated by Debbie Saivetz, Ana Graham and director Danya Taymor — that reaches truly incredible depths of depravity. The play’s satire is razor sharp and the language, for all of its inflammatory oratory and colloquial “charms,” is oddly grandly poetic. In fact, taken as a whole, the entire production feels more like an odd, multifaceted performance poetry piece than a straight play. The incredibly talented and able cast (Janice Amaya, Ugo Chukwa, Layla Khoshnoudi, Shaplin, and Michelle Silvani) handles the text with skill and precision, turning each twisted phrase with just the right amount of uncanny sincerity and elevating it with carefully choreographed physicality. Recurring gestures accompany recurring words in a really subtle and beautiful way considering the ideas they underscore. The actors maintain the halfway hysterical repetitive poetic cadence without ever making it look difficult, as I’m sure it is picking up each other’s lines midstream as they do unceasingly while multitasking their way through the catalogue of delightfully despicable characters.

For all of its blustering hate speech the show is also surprisingly funny — both funny ha-ha and funny strange. It’s harsh and at the same time silly, like a dog sinking its teeth into your neck as it tries to mount you impotently from behind. The story itself is absurdist bordering on surrealist, and I’m left at a loss of what to say without giving away too much of the story. Suffice it to say that it involves one freak show of an extended family, 36 illegal Mexican immigrants, approximately two dozen unnamed Nigerians and their unctuous but ruthless political representative, a daisy-covered wheelchair, a deadly willow tree, a gold Cadillac, two numb pinky fingers, some white sneakers and more golden liquids than you could ever hope to avoid. Things occasionally get uncomfortable from time to time when the plot steps back over the line from absurdist to just plain old icky, but I found that all the more provocative. Feeling my cheeks flush at one moment in particular made me wonder what part of the spectacle was the cause: could it be the content and situation, the close proximity to the action, or just the gleefully demented and piercing glint in an actor’s eyes as he simulated a particular act while looking straight into the audience’s eyes, almost like a dare.

Sure the play brings up questions about racial and social perspectives and about how living on the liberal coasts can obscure the fact that there’s a whole country out in the middle of the continent where the attitudes on display may not seem quite so far-fetched. All the talk of evolutionists and Northern attitudes didn’t really strike too far from stories told by friends who spent time in the Deep South. And then I have to wonder if that’s how the world sees us. I know I’ve heard Americans described as “burger-eating invasion monkeys,” clearly a riff on the American opinion of the French as “cheese-eating surrender monkeys,” but it does beg the question of whether or not this is the racist, over-confident picture we the people are painting for the rest of the world. This is wholly irrelevant, true, but it’s what I left thinking about.

In some ways I imagine sitting through I Hate Fucking Mexicans is not unlike getting a tattoo: The needle-like words jab and burn quickly and relentlessly, but in the end they create a picture of surprising beauty and leave the beneficiary of the procedure addicted and craving more. The hour I spent in the Flea Theater was like a window into another world. I’m already thinking about when I can go back.

Photos by Hunter Canning
1. Adriano Shaplin & Michelle Silvani
2. The Cast
3, Michelle Silvani, Adriano Shaplin & Janice Amaya
4. Adriano Shaplin & Michelle Silvani
5. Janice Amaya & Ugo Chukwu
6. Adriano Shaplin

I Hate Fucking Mexicans
The Flea Theater
41 White Street
212-226-0051
Through November 4, 2012

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