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Whole Lotta Shakira Goin' On 

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Whole Lotta Shakira Goin' On, Salsation!, at Chicago Actors Studio. This company's new "comedy with a Latin flavor" is smaller in scope than its recent Touched by an Anglo. Also conspicuous are references to Puerto Rican, Latin American, and Mexican culture, as wry scenes of homegrown irony take the place of Anglo's Hollywood-inspired spoofs. Consider the Puerto Rican lads approached by two camera- and phrase book-toting suburbanites sightseeing in their "exotic" neighborhood: initially they exploit these naive strangers, then decide to give them a lesson in global values, whereupon the tourists placidly shift their ethnophilia elsewhere. Children play at hunting fantasy-hero cockroaches, and a young woman's efforts to live independently are confounded by her overprotective family.

More broad-based gags include the Colombian dance teacher whose disco steps mimic drug-smuggling activities, nuns who play rap music, and the author of a book on the hidden symbolism of household objects (audience members are asked to provide examples for the guru's self-aggrandizing analysis). Even facile ideas, like the "Spics Incorporated" kiddie show, are more than compensated for by a finale in which lonely youths of mixed ethnicities lament the rejection they face, after which the entire company stoutly declares, "We're all Americans." Who's gonna argue with that?


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