Hold the Hot Sauce! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Hold the Hot Sauce! 

Hold the Hot Sauce!, Bailiwick Repertory.

It's hard to dislike a solo show in which the performer offers audience members napkins on which to write their phone numbers, then deposits them in a shopping bag labeled "Garcia's Dates." Much praised for his consummate storytelling in Under Milk Wood, Michael Garcia in Hold the Hot Sauce! shares his own telling tales, and with an eloquence to match the content. His often intense 90-minute confessional--a matinee offering in Bailiwick Repertory's Pride Performance Series--shines with one man's view of life as "a long and lovely awakening" (Oscar Wilde called existence "a long and lovely suicide"). We hear how Garcia's hostile parents made their gay son an "orphan" (though his mother later sent a heartbreaking letter of reconciliation), how losing 40 pounds freed him from a bad self-image, how he spent $20,000 on pot over a decade, and how the "dear love of comrades" continues to remedy loneliness and the devastating loss of a lover named Kevin to AIDS.

Garcia, whose acting could render a timetable climactic, naturally does even better with these detailed disclosures: assorted snapshots from CTA rides, a quarrel he has with God's bullies ("Religion got in the way of my faith"), and the constant courage he needs to be openly gay. (Asked "When did you come out?" he answers, "Every day.") Staged by Michael Halberstam with a rich mix of caring and comedy, Garcia's monologue is as inimitable as its source: a Chicano who is neither Spanish-speaking, Catholic, nor heterosexual--described by a friend as "a highly localized distortion." More such distortions might straighten out the world. (Caution: the upstairs theater is not air-conditioned.)

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