I don’t always go to Pilsen, but when I do, there better be a good fucking reason to endure a full hour on the Blue Line and then another half hour on the Halsted bus. This Northsider went to see SIQ which in essence was a celebration of all things south and Latino. I hate people who critique comedy and since I have low self esteem, here we are:
Located in a backyard in Pilsen, SIQ (Southside Ignoramus Quartet) is a genuinely authentic DIY operation. I thought the cost cutting measures of this very singular event held in a tent were going a bit overboard. However the reason behind the venue proved to be more romantic than just fiscal. David Pintor’s father told him stories of “travelling theaters in Mexico that they used to do in [tents].”
The limited seating gave a very intimate feeling which definitely reflected the earnest honesty of a joke well received. As for the opening act, Jaime de Leon was funny yet not the best warmer-upper. The crowd wasn’t all there yet and I think in our sweaty Southern sauna, none of us in attendance were loose enough to laugh. Objectively, he was consistently funny and subtle, without those insipidly annoying voices that Latino comedians like your Gabriel Iglesiases or your George Lopezes tend to vomit out whenever the opportunity arises. I guess that was funny in the 90s, but what wasn’t?
The second act by Organic Monkey was funny but might have been a bit too obtuse for those in attendance. They got down to voices on NPR which I found to be quite funny, if not a bit too Fellini (but without the beach…or the jokes).
The meat and potatoes of the show arrived and indeed it was consistent in its hilarity. It was refreshing to see this very specific point of view that young Latinos tend to share in regard to our community, no matter what cardinal point you’re attached to. However, if I did find one aspect wrong, it was the seemingly gratuitous rendition of the classic “silly faggot” character, prevalent among those reaching for an easy joke and films in Francoist Spain. It was in one of the later sketches about a delusional transgendered hairdresser and his/her equally delusional coworker ignoring a customer with gossip and projection. However, this is comedy (except for that sketch) and my inner monologue demanded that I shut the fuck up and roll with the punches, for they were not directed at me for I’m not a hairdresser. And true story: they are (unfortunately) out there.
Jackie Herrera and Ruth Guerra were incredible and have confirmed my suspicions that we are living in the age of the woman (at least when it comes to comedy, not so much abortions). That isn’t to say that the seemingly always unflappable Ricardo Gamboa did not give a hilarious energy throughout. I was not familiar with David Pintor, however I shall definitely look out for him in the future. He is the brains, stomach organs and a plethora of other body bits that brought this production up. That not only takes talent, but it takes timing and that shows savvy.
In essence, what the show tries to bring is a cost positive production to the Southside who frankly have suffered from the monopolization of the performing arts that have been held hostage by the Northside. Be it drama or comedy, the great and not-so-great stages of Chicago tend to exclude numbered streets. But at the root of it is also the fact that Latino representation is not something that is very prevalent and when it is there, it’s boring. Pintor had recounted (not in so many words) that power struggles and immigrant sagas are thought provoking but can become quite dull. It doesn’t stop at just the Latino presence, as native Chicagoans are rarely the ones on stage. Gamboa pointed out “the bodies aren’t there” and in truth, these bodies provide an almost nativist reappropriation of theater in Chicago. I guarantee you that will be the first and last time you hear the word nativist being applied to four Mexicans from Pilsen but in the end, what’s more Chicagoan than that?
Be sure to check it out if you’re into laughs and $3 Victorias (which smells like a deal to me but might have been exclusive to that night):
SIQ Theater Tent, 1923 S. Morgan St. | July 16, July 30, August 6, August 13
$5 in advance, $7 at the door; all performances begin at 9pm
For tickets visit: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/180902