This year marks the eighteenth annual installment of The Public Theater’s internationally renowned Under the Radar Festival celebrating innovative new theater from around the world, while giving a platform to voices not often heard. Among the nineteen days of shows spotlighting 36 artists from nine different countries is Migguel Anggelo’s funny, heartrending, and ultimately triumphant LatinXoxo, playing three performances at Joe’s Pub through Tuesday, January 17.
The Venezuelan-born NYC-based multi-disciplinary creator and performer explores the difficult personal journey that led from a troubled childhood and reckoning with a father grounded in homophobic and misogynistic machismo to finding and embracing self-acceptance, forgiveness, and an authentic queer identity. It’s an important show that’s both entertaining and affecting, as it touches on all the emotions – from the uncertainty, pain, frustration, and anger of a child who felt unseen and unloved, to the growing awareness, strength, affirmation, and joy that comes with recognizing one’s true self and connecting with and learning from the best memories of the past, not just the trauma.
Directed with over-the-top high-camp laughs alternating with profoundly poignant passages of reflection by Adrian Alexander Alea, the intimate story, with a book by C. Julian Jiménez, is seen through the eyes and voices of three manifestations of Anggelo’s character (and the “Latin lover” stereotypes of a father who would “rather have a prostitute daughter than a faggot son” – so, Migguel says, “I became both” – and believed that “you’re a pussy” if you’re not killing an innocent living creature): a female virgin based on iconic images of the Virgin Mary; a flirtatious prostitute inspired by Bizet’s Carmen; and a young toreador (bullfighter) who aspires to become a matador (a bullfighter with the task of killing the bull).
The belated post-mortem conversation/confrontation with Anggelo’s father (electrocuted in a horrific accident witnessed by his thirteen-year-old son, who “didn’t shed a tear,” and represented by a photo and a memorial candle on the piano) is presented in a combined format of meaningful bilingual songs and words, physical comedy, movement, and dance, and audience participation, with Migguel actively moving around the house (the scene of discovering the gay dating app GRINDR is one of the highlights), addressing viewers directly, and bringing one (who was willing) up on stage for a hilarious seductive encounter. The performance is enhanced with dazzling costumes by Ryan Park that easily transition from one personality to the next, and dramatic lighting that shifts with the changing scenes and moods.
Accompanied by a top-notch four-piece band (Joel Mateo on drums and percussion, Yahir Montes on bass and guitar, and Saúl Cosme on guitar, led by music director, arranger, and co-composer Jaime Lozano – who receives the unwelcome advances of the prostitute in another of the show’s funniest bits – on piano, guitar, and back-up vocals), Anggelo’s rich and resonant voice and impressive range and breath control deliver a powerhouse mix of Spanish boleros, operatic arias, original songs, and pop hits set to a Latin beat. The medley of “Fever” and “Oye Como Va” is especially enjoyable, as is an exquisitely sensitive closing number (backed by Lozano) of a song the father and son sang together on early mornings in Venezuela.
LatinXoxo is a provocative and meaningful musical memoir that leaves us with the momentous message to focus on the positive and to show who you really are before it’s too late. Migguel Anggelo has done just that, with exceptional talent, humor, and heart.
Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, without intermission.
LatinXoxo plays through Tuesday, January 17, 2023, at Joe’s Pub, at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $35, plus fees and a two drink or $12 food minimum per person), go online. Masks are no longer required but are recommended.