October 10, 2009

Modine saves the Chimborazzi

Matthew Modine finds a cause

By Cynthia CitronA seedy-looking, longhaired Matthew Modine stumbles into his agent's office looking for a "cause" that will bring him back from obscurity and get him invited to "A-list" parties again. How about if he adopts an Ethiopian orphan—that's in Africa, right? Or becomes a spokesman for one of those "colored ribbon" diseases?

No, no, no, his agent ("Frasier"'s Peri Gilpin) tells him. That's all been done. It takes her gay makeup artist and general factotum, Jeffrey ("Third Rock"'s French Stewart), to come up with a new idea. Apparently, an obscure tribe, the Chimborazzi of the Ecuadorian Andes, is threatened with extinction because their chief resource, the alpacas, are mysteriously dying off. So it's Matthew Modine to the rescue!

Sounds like a fun premise for a play, doesn't it? First-time playwright Blair Singer thought so. And so did director John Rando. But it was not to be. Singer's writing is only occasionally funny and Rando's direction is wooden and flat. And everybody's timing is off.
And:The saving grace of this production are the three Chimborazzi tribesmen, Abraham (Edward Padilla), Santos (Mark Damon Espinoza), and Angel (Reggie De Leon) whose bright red Guatemalan-style costumes and headgear are truly wondrous, thanks to designer Robert Blackman. These three have been waiting for the "prodigal son" to return and save the tribe. The prodigal son, according to tradition, has "three first names" and so Modine fills the bill, since his name is Matthew Moe Dean.Comment:  For more on the subject, see Native Plays and Other Stage Shows.

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