Performance art can do more than just provoke thought. In "Nostalgia Maldita: 1-900-Mexico," her new solo piece at Los Angeles Theatre Center's Theater 4, Yareli Arizmendi proves it can burn off fat as well.
The leotard-clad Arizmendi--best known for co-starring in the film hit "Like Water for Chocolate"--climbs a stair machine for virtually the entire 50 minutes of her show. Diet and exercise programs are among the targets in this briskly satiric performance, which uses the nonstop whir of the machine as a kind of leitmotif of comic futility.
With the ragged feel of a work-in-progress, "Nostalgia" broadly satirizes a number of Mexican and American cultural cliches, including fat-laced tacos and burritos, infomercials and telephone sex lines. Director Luis Torner is unable to give the piece any real focus, but viewers will still find themselves charmed and amazed by Arizmendi's energy and wit. One highlight has her donning a tiara as Miss Fat Gram and peppering her audience with personal questions such as "Do you think you'll die of a heart attack? Do you think you'll die?"
Preceding "Nostalgia" is "Know Your Place," which could hardly be more different in terms of content and presentation. This solo piece by Rose Portillo connects the experience of her grandmother Mercedes, a woman who fled the Mexican revolution of 1910, with the current uprising in Chiapas.
Portillo has an unassuming presence and admirably literary writing style, but the material could use a much more vigorous and imaginative delivery. Director Sylvia Morales allows a host of clunky transitions, including the device of telling viewers about Chiapas by reading newspaper accounts of the uprising.
* "Nostalgia Maldita: 1-900-Mexico" and "Know Your Place," Los Angeles Theatre Center Theater 4, 514 S. Spring St., Los Angeles. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Ends July 15. $13. (213) 485-1681. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.