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Stumbling Toward Faux 'Sirena's' Call

March 02, 2001|JANA J. MONJI

In Guillermo Reyes' "Sirena: Queen of the Tango," at the Celebration Theatre, the word queen refers to cross-dressing, for there's nothing regal about the lead character, Sirena (Douglas Steindorff). Nor is there anything commanding about the faux tango dancing in this tangle of a film noir spoof. The three "episodes" that make up this piece are like skits that fail to make a comprehensive whole.

The beginning is promising, with Evan A. Bartoletti's evocative lighting design and Larry Sousa's minimalist scenic design setting the mood. A Santa Monica police sergeant (David Shofner) leans against a post with his hat at a rakish tilt and talks about a dame--well, sort of.

Sirena has married to stay in the States, but that's legal only if Sirena is a woman, which is the subject of debate here. Snappy lines fly but feet don't. Steindorff as the "Argentinean tango dancing pagan goddess" is unconvincing in all four of those categories. Although Alison Arngrim, of "Little House on the Prairie" fame, is advertised as the female lead, her character doesn't appear until the last and most muddled episode. Perhaps "lead" here referred to dancing?

There are three types of tango. From the original Argentine tango came American and international styles. Choreographer Brian-Paul Mendoza attempts to pass off some awkward combination of the latter two as the former.

Reyes' piece shows promise, but this production is ultimately disappointing, particularly when one recalls a more recent camp outing at another venue, "Speed Hedda," that managed to better incorporate dance into parody.

*

* "Sirena: Queen of the Tango," Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood. Fridays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays 5 p.m. Ends April 1. $20. (323) 289-2999. Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes.

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