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Art & Culture

A Smart Satire for the Age of the Smartphone

By William G. Schulz

If you are fed up with Facebook, log off for a few hours and head over to GALA Theatre in Columbia Heights for a rollicking evening of analog entertainment in the form of La Foto: A Selfie Affair. This deeply funny, social media satire — set in present-day Miami — takes aim at Facebook (and other social media platforms) as a “hell for happy people,” in the memorable words of one of the play’s characters.

Playwright Gustavo Ott has rendered a tale that is both timeless — and a perfect send-up of the age of over-sharing.

And GALA has assembled some its finest acting talent for La Foto, a show that compels the audience to stop checking their devices for awhile and get in touch with human emotions that run a bit deeper than “like,” “sad,” and “wow.”

Carlos Castillo and Luz Nicolás. photo--Daniel Martínez.

Carlos Castillo and Luz Nicolás. photo–Daniel Martínez.

GALA company members Luz Nicolas as “Laura,” and Carlos Castillo as “Denis,” star as middle-aged, would-be lovers (and former high school sweethearts) who fall to temptation in the form of risqué boudoir photos — Smartphone selfies-style — and “sexting.” Both of these fine actors have the chops to deliver laugh-out-loud comedy as well as to convey the subtleties of personhood that give their characters the warmth and human frailty necessary to win our empathy.

Company member Karen Morales, as Laura’s friend “Ale,” adds to the authenticity of a family scandal borne of vanity, loneliness, and the quest for eternal youth.

Luz Nicolás (left) and Karen Morales (right). photo--Daniel Martínez.

Luz Nicolás (left) and Karen Morales (right). photo–Daniel Martínez.

As with any good farce, Laura’s glamour shots and Denis’ eagerness to see more, propel events that get wildly, unpredictably out of control. Laura loses her job — but, refreshingly, not her self-respect. Denis — so tempted by the green on the other side of the fence — is forced to reckon with a marriage to his wife, Thais (Maria Peyramaure), that teeters on a desperate sense that middle age is slowly cancelling possibility for even one more lusty romance.

Hoping for one last zing of sex appeal and youthful vigor, our star-crossed lovers continue to pursue an online romance fueled mostly by imagination, good lighting, and makeup. Their children — Laura’s daughter Kelly (Samantha Rios) and Denis’ son, Fran (Jose Gonzalez) — are made to suffer their parents’ foibles as so many high-schoolers must, but amplified by the instant “sharing” of everything online that today exposes all skeletons in everyone’s closets. The only hope for Kelly and Fran is that their embarrassment will quickly be replaced by someone else’s revenge porn, inappropriate texting, or genitalia pics that might be flying around in cyberspace.

Luz Nicolás (left), Karen Morales (right). photo--Daniel Martínez.

Luz Nicolás (left), Karen Morales (right). photo–Daniel Martínez.

In the end, La Foto’s characters find a way to deal with the calamity they have created. Playwright Ott doesn’t give us an ending that is either saccharine or complete tragedy. He showcases our ability to stand back up when we have fallen, to change, to accept—and, best of all, simply move on.

Oh, and don’t be surprised if you have a sudden urge to run home after the play and purge your own iPad of racy photos taken home alone (or so you hope) on a Saturday night.

La Foto: A Selfie Affair is on stage at GALA (Grupo de Artistas Latino Americanos) Hispanic Theatre through February 25th. Tickets are available at www.GALAtheater.org.

Copyright © 2018 InTowner Publishing Corp. & William G. Schulz. All rights reserved.