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Author Enjoyed Translating Play : Playwright: It was the first time Octavio Solis had translated one of his works.

January 09, 1991|NANCY CHURNIN

SAN DIEGO — For playwright Octavio Solis, this production of "Man of the Flesh" will be the first time he has ever written a Spanish version of one of his plays. It is also the first time his parents will see one of his plays.

Solis, who now lives in San Francisco, was born and raised in El Paso, Tex., but both his parents were born in Mexico. His father still doesn't speak English, but he understands it.

Solis said he enjoyed translating the work into Spanish, but, for him, a lot of the pleasure of the play comes from tapping into a very particular Mexican myth and holiday (the Day of the Dead, celebrated Nov. 2), and finding that he hit a universal chord in the larger community.

"I just thought I was writing a little play about Don Juan and blah blah blah," Solis said. "But it seems to spark debate, anger, fury. It seems to make people mad and make them laugh at the same time. I've created a character that is an elemental character. He has his own sense of values, but they're based on the principle of sexual rapture."

"Man of the Flesh"--which recently won a Drama-logue writing award for last year's South Coast Repertory Theatre production--has been the 32-year-old playwright's most-produced play to date. The next production has already been scheduled to play at the Chicago Latino Theatre Company this fall, and Adrian Stewart, the Rep's managing director, said that if his theater could raise the money, he would love to mount the show again in Tijuana.

The way the play is structured also sends a message to the Anglo audiences about Latino stereotypes, said Sam Woodhouse, the Rep's producing director.

In the English version, it contrasts class distinctions between the poor barrio community in San Diego and the wealthy Anglos in La Jolla. In the Spanish version, it contrasts the poor barrio community and (with a bit of playwright license) the multimillionaire Mexicans living in La Jolla.

Then, in a nice twist of cross-cultural casting, the same Latino actors who play Latinos in the barrio get to play the Anglos in La Jolla.

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