The Dallas Morning News
Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Quick-draw 'Barrio'. What is it about Spanglish that's so funny?

By Tom Sime / The Dallas Morning News

What is it about Spanglish that's so funny? Is it the clash of cultures? The clash of accents? The quick leaps back and forth across la frontera within? The only answer is helpless laughter in Barrio Daze, Adrian Villegas' "unguided tour through the wilds of the Chicano natural habitat ... the awesome majesty of the barrio."

Mr. Villegas, an Austin actor-writer-comedian and member of the Latino Comedy Project troupe, plays a range of characters in this one-man show, which opened at Teatro Dallas on Thursday. First up is a Latino-studies professor giving a slide lecture on "Chicano history from 3,000 B.C. to last week." The average Chicano, he tells us, is "complex ... multilayered ... and owes me $20."

Sober respect for la raza eventually surfaces in Barrio Daze , but in the meantime, it's a free-for-all of social satire, profane barbs at Anglos and wicked self-mockery. Spanglish itself is skewered in the academic's analysis of how "truck" becomes "troque ," breakfast becomes "panquekehs" and a crispy midday meal a "cronche lonche."

Depending on what beverages are served with lonche, the chupacabra may turn up, as this mythical, predatory beast "can only be seen by Latinos who have had at least two beers."

Other characters include a coarse, resentful fast-food counter man ("What the ... [expletive] are 'people skills'?"); a drunken panhandler; a lovable middle-aged bus driver and Freddy Fender fan; an Anglo Republican Texas senate candidate, Bubba Jones Wilkins, who advocates the death penalty for underage graffiti artists; his sycophantic but hostile gardener; a hopelessly assimilated vendido who turns up with a six-pack of Zima after a hard day working for Wilkins' campaign; and a burglar who breaks into the sellout's house, only to face a pit bull who looks like "a velociraptoro from Jurassic Parque ."

All the characters are interrelated in that way, which gives the show a bit more continuity than some such characters-on-parade showcases.

Recorded interludes are also funny, including ads for fictional KMEX-FMwhich plays all the best Chicano rock "from the '70s to the late '70s" and a Chinese-Mexican buffet restaurant, "Wok-amole."

The show ends with an impassioned campaign speech from Wilkins' progressive Latino rival, who reminds us that

"We, the people, can make a difference." Mr. Villegas' contribution to the cause is less likely to be such sincere but

boilerplate rhetoric; his gift is in making we, the different people, laugh together.

Barrio Daze, presented as part of the 10th International Theater Festival at Teatro Dallas, 1331 Record Crossing Road, Friday and Saturday at 8:15 p.m. Tickets $18. For mature audiences; includes strong language. Call 214-689-6492.