Nancy Keystone

Lies & misdemeanors: ‘Latina’ and ‘The Last Five Years’

Reviews: Milagro's wild 'Learn To Be Latina' and Center Stage's Jason Robert Brown musical measure the depravity of mendacity

Like politics, the theater relies on lies.

 It’s your lucky day, Macbeth. Grab the ring!

 My name? It’s, um, Ernest.

 Have you ever heard of the word mendacity?

 Honest, Jamie and Edmund, I’m totally off the morphine.

 I’m pretty sure Desdemona gave your handkerchief to Cassio.

Without lies, where’s the conflict? Without conflict, where’s the drama – or the comedy?

There are lies, damned lies, and statistics, as Mark Twain famously quoted Benjamin Disraeli on the three degrees of falsehood, although no one’s been able to nail down whether Disraeli ever actually said it or not, suggesting the distinct possibility that Twain lied about lying, or at least misspoke the truth. Wheels within wheels, and that’s how stories get spun.

Two shows new to Portland stages – Enrique Urueta’s comedy Learn To Be Latina, at Milagro Theatre, and Jason Robert Brown’s two-person musical The Last Five Years, at Portland Center Stage – get their knickers in a twist over some great big whoppers. One wallows in the lie of the vow of eternal love, keeping things close and personal. The other mucks around in the mendacity of marketing, sprawling satirically all over the cultural map. Let’s sprawl first.

 *

 It’s not easy being brown. Especially if you’re the wrong kind of brown. But then, as the young singer Hanán discovers in Urueta’s satirical comedy Learn To Be Latina, you can always lie about it. Well, why not? Doesn’t everyone? 

Continues…