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Stage Review : Satire On Hollywood Boasts A Latin Beat

August 20, 1986|DON SHIRLEY

Larry Hyman's "Tequila!" may make you giddy, but it won't bring on a hangover. This dance musical at the Skylight is an ideal after-dinner refreshment: funny, fluid, sexy and so short (just over an hour) that it doesn't have time to wear out its welcome.

We're at the First International Zihuatanejo Film Festival. Among the Hollywood zanies, jockeying for their next jobs, are a fluttery star (Deborah Geffner) and her dictatorial manager (Christine Kellogg), a crass producer (Luis Manuel) and his psychic screenwriter (Charles Randolph-Wright), a king of the skateboard flicks (Ray Cochran) and his friend, the performance artist (Anne Marie Runolfson).

Also on hand are a couple of all-American fans: a reporter from Kenosha (Tim Bagley), who'd like to sell one of his 74 screenplays, and a honeymooning telephone operator from Norwalk (Kelly Gabriel), looking for excitement.

The combination of characters creates a festival of tripped-up egos and jangled nerves. But "Tequila!" isn't just another sour satire of "the industry."

Hyman mixes his ingredients in a blender that churns to an irresistible Latin beat. And when the Mexican waiter (David Salas) sprinkles a touch of tequila--"a little bit of love in a bottle"--over the proceedings, the sniping stops and romance takes over. It's like a "Midsummer Night's Dream" that stays put in the woods.

A more apt analogy would be a '30s musical--and in the program, Hyman offers thanks and apologies to Busby Berkeley. Hyman's choreography isn't nearly as mind-boggling as Berkeley's; it consists of fairly routine riffs that arise out of the cha-cha and the rumba. Yet the dances, like the show itself, make up in blithe spirits what they lack in novelty. And the snappy, syncopated movement continues as an undercurrent even during most of the spoken dialogue.

Hyman's program note also acknowledges Anton Chekhov and Xavier Cugat. Chekhov contributed snippets from "The Sea Gull," which the skateboard king is trying to peddle as a movie. As for Cugat, most of the score is made up of some of his vintage recordings.

The script is credited to "an improvisational workshop." If that means the actors wrote it, they have all come up with a few choice moments for themselves--and Hyman has edited them into a smooth and quickly paced package. I was particularly taken with Geffner's volatile movie queen and with Cochran, who indeed looks as if he could play Treplev as well as an incipient brat packer.

Performances are at 1816 1/2 N. Vermont, Fridays at 8 p.m., through Sept. 5; (213) 874-3678.

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