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THEATER BEAT

'La Chunga' Offers Few Insights

April 23, 1993

Without a familiarity with Peruvian playwright and politician Mario Vargas Llosa's original script of "La Chunga," it's difficult to know how much adapter Liana Odalys, using Joanne Potlitzer translation, has edited. "Based on" Vargas Llosa's play, it seems a bit simplistic, without much of the political comment for which he's known.

Particularly under Odalys' co-direction with Del Zamora (Odalys also plays the title role), this production at the Hollywood Court Theatre makes of its macho men icons of control, of sexist evil. Its women are put-upon sufferers with no hope.

We get incidents but few insights. While gambling in La Chunga's bar, the players make solo trips upstairs with their fetishes in tow and play out games with innocent young Meche during pauses in her lesbian encounter with La Chunga.

The playwright's voice is indistinct. Generally good performances--particularly by Efrain Figueroa as the bullying ringleader who is Meche's boyfriend, and Alejandro De Hoyos as a shy type lusting after Meche--do not cloud the fact that the play makes no comment and presents little of the mystery that might guide the viewer into Vargas Llosa's thought processes. And Gronk's set, which looks like finger-painting, doesn't help.

* "La Chunga," Chapel Court Theatre, 6817 Franklin Ave., Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. English: April 29. Spanish: all other performances. Ends May 9. $15; (213) 926-5566. Running time: 2 hours.

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