At various points in United States history, immigrants from different nations (from Ireland to China) have suffered widespread stigma and discrimination. Recently, Latinos have been under fire, particularly with the passing of anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona. The ugly treatment of undocumented workers also was noticeable locally, where rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina included a considerable contribution by Latino laborers. One of the more poignant and moving vignettes in performance artist Jose Torres-Tama's Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evildoers is based on the true story of a 19-year-old man who was injured on a demolition job and almost lost his arm because medical staff at the hospital was inclined to amputate instead of performing successive surgeries to repair his arm and hand.
The solo show includes monologues about how undocumented immigrants cope in the shadows in a nation that wants cheap labor but won't grant such workers legal status. But discrimination also affects citizens of Hispanic descent and documented immigrants.
Other scenes are more jovial and sometimes corny. A slam poetry-style screed surfs through random associations about green being the color of aliens, green cards, money and BP. It's amusing even if it's too loose. A reworked version of "St. James Infirmary" still needs work.
Tama performs in both English and Spanish, which at times highlights some of the underlying issues of cultural difference and globalization. It also makes the piece longer than it needs to be, and at times extensive translations slow down the show.
There are many visually stark images, entertaining rants and heartbreaking personal accounts. The collage of approaches and tones makes it seem like a one-man variety show. But as with a recent photography show Tama curated at Barrister's Gallery, the main focus deserves attention, and this is an entertaining production. — Will Coviello
Thru Oct. 10
Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evildoers
8 p.m. Thu.-Sun.
Shadowbox Theatre, 2400 St. Claude Ave., 523-7469; www.theshadowboxtheatre.com
Tickets $10 single admission, $15 for two