ANYONE BUT ME / THE OXY COMPLEX
IAMA Theatre Company / Pico Playhouse online
Through April 25, $15 per show, $20 per both
The solo show has seen a resurgence during the pandemic lockdown; it’s much easier to produce, even after theater companies were given permission to use their venues again, obeying all Covid-19 protocols and filming without an audience. Restrictions are such that the fewer performers and crew members who have to stay in a bubble the better, not to mention the difficulty of putting on a play in which all actors must remain at least six feet away from one another onstage. LA-based IAMA Theatre Company is in the midst of its third and fourth solo presentations, running in a kind of online repertory through April 25.
The ensemble’s spring season kicked off with Making Friends, written and performed by Tom DeTrinis and shot live at the Pico Playhouse, followed by Ryan J. Haddad’s Hi, Are You Single?, recorded live at the Woolly Mammoth in DC. IAMA’s two current shows explore female Latinx identity, in very different ways. In Anyone But Me, written and performed by Sheila Carrasco and directed by Margaux Susi, Carrasco portrays an administrative assistant, a grocery clerk, an elegant lady interviewing for a diversity VP position, an actress teaching a class, a Chilean refugee advising her daughter, and a high school senior with a dark secret. It all takes place in and on an octagonal wooden table with a large space in the middle where Carrasco, in a tight body suit, sits, stands, and dances, changing costumes in front of us and moving around props. (Justin Huen designed the set, with lighting by R. S. Buck and sound by John Nobori.)
“Real artists don’t take breaks,” one of her characters, who is preparing an online sexcast, says to her unseen friend. “Real artists work though the hard times, you know? We push past it; we thrive in it. We get to the truth. I need to raise the bar, right? It’s all about, um – it’s all about, Why now? Who am I, right? How am I pushing the needle forward, in a way that matters? Maybe I shouldn’t be creating anything at all right now. But if I’m not creating, then who even am I?”
Anna LaMadrid’s The Oxy Complex, directed by Michelle Bossy, was also recorded at the Pico with the same crew, but it is more of a theater/film hybrid, with each of LaMadrid’s characters undergoing complete makeovers involving hair and costumes and delivering monologues on distinct sets (a bedroom, a bar, a kitchen) while incorporating social media images. On her five hundredth day of quarantine, Viviana, on her back in bed, gently sings, “Rockabye, Covid, you ruined our lives / Because of you we’re no longer outside / I’m anxious and nervous all of the time / Because I’ve had friends who have lost their lives / The numbers keep rising / No one seems to care / They’re playing with fire / And I am so scared.”
Over the course of an hour, she details her fear, speaking in her mind as well as directly out loud to the audience, while also portraying her mother, who only increases her worry; Dr. Oye Me, who comments on Viviana’s personal crisis, explaining she has “skin hunger” and calling Oxytocin “the love hormone”; and an extrovert friend who is not about to give up sex because of the lockdown and convinces Viviana to find a man through a dating app. (“It’s not about Mr. Right; it’s about Mr. Right Now.”). Viviana’s loneliness runs so deep that she starts blaming herself. “Maybe I’m just unlovable,” she says, drunk and crying. Like Anyone But Me, The Oxy Complex is about women trying to understand who they are, in a society that still makes that difficult, especially during a global health crisis.