Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
August 15, 2009
Dominizuelan is the name of a comedy duo comprising Wendy Mateo and Lorena Diaz. They have been working in comedy clubs and improv theatres in Chicago and have brought a one-hour compendium of their material to FringeNYC—Dominizuelan Presents: People in the City.
The sketches, as the title suggests, are little urban slices of life: two Latino women gossiping while they clean the ladies' room at a trendy nightclub; two young women waiting to get in to the same nightclub; two kids raising a ruckus and making a mess while their mother is away at work; two older Hispanic men reminiscing about their successes back in the day and dispensing bad advice about women to a neighborhood kid. Mateo and Diaz provide unity to the proceedings by making the sketches build on one another to tell a sort of story—the little boys in one sketch are the children of one of the women cleaning the bathroom in a prior sketch, for example.
Mateo and Diaz are energetic and bold performers; Mateo seems the more skillful actress, particularly impressive as she morphs from character to character before our eyes, while Diaz shines in the more physical passages (there are transitions between the sketches where the women dance and in an early one of these Diaz does some machine-like moves that are pretty exciting to watch).
As writers, they are less sure, however, as the material they've provided for themselves too often covers ground that's been trodden many, many times already. The writing is cruder than it needs to be, and most distressingly resorts continually to ethnic stereotypes that really have no place in 21st century discourse, as far as I'm concerned. An introductory skit in which two women insist on learning the ethnic background of their Hispanic waitress could be valuable commentary if it didn't turn nastily anti-Semitic (the women are identified as Jewish and then given a host of lines that highlight their ignorance and prejudice—such as saying that Dominicans smell like vegetable oil). Other scenes try to mine humor by resorting to homophobia and other forms of ethnic profiling. This stuff simply isn't funny.
I wish Dominizuelan well because they seem like hard-working, eager-to-learn young performers. But the material in People in the City shows that they are at present very much on the wrong track. (It should be noted that several people in the audience at the performance attended laughed loudly and heartily throughout.)
A final note: it would have been a good idea for the ladies to update their programs, which clearly are recycled from some previous Chicago engagement.