Dancing with Demons
a kate west review
written & performed by Ruth Otero; directed by Loren Chadima
at the Elephant Lab Theatre, 1078 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood, CA 90038
Friday, February 9, 2007 & for upcoming shows contact www.ruthotero.com
Mentioned by Variety Magazine as one of the Ten Comics to Watch in 2002, Ruth Otero is an expert on the one-woman show and even teaches how to do it on the side (www.ruthotero.com). Her current show, "Dancing with Demons", is an original and innovative look at dealing with dreams and personal demons.
The show begins with Ruth waking up in bed and being startled by the audience. Apparently we are figments of her imagination as she dreams a series of nightmares and anxiety dreams, one of which includes being completely unprepared for this very show. In full shimmery silver disco getup with platform shoes, she appeals to us to applaud and validate her. And we are happy to do so. She jumps into the audience, playfully enjoining us to help her cope with different aspects of her multi-layered and often inappropriate personalities, surfacing one at a time.
Her great variety of characters include a Puerto Rican on trial for attempting to be white, a lesbian in denial, a nurse advising a would-be-actress-now-mother realizing her life is over, an underdog boxer literally battling Fear and her ultimate demon of demons, her own Hispanic mother (explored in even more painful detail in her show "Oops, I Killed My Mother). One standout scene involves her attempt to go back to sleep, twisting and turning in the sheets in time to the "Barber of Seville" theme. It is masterfully hilarious and clever at once.
Otero is very adept at leaping from character to character, changing accents as quickly as she changes viewpoints. Her appeal lies in her willingness to share her vulnerabilities and we sympathize with the universal truths of her anxieties. Some of her vignettes do run a bit long, like Yellow Bird, the boxer, who keeps succumbing to Fear until ultimate triumph by the end. Her characterization is amusing, however, it is not as based in reality as other characters, so at times it feels out of place. Much more identifiable are characters like her mother, for who doesn't experience this conflict with a parent, especially mothers and daughters? And Ruth is well versed in the accent.
As participant observers in her journey toward self-acceptance, we are confided in and treated as family. We cheer each victory and laugh at every faux pas and in the end we all realize that we are all going to be O.K. It's a fun show and might even be suited for expansion into an entire variety show. Ruth Otero is indeed a gifted comic and yes, definitely one to watch.