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Theatre Review (LA): The Girl Most Likely To by Michael Premsrirat

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Things are buzzing along down at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. There are currently four or five projects going on in this multi-theatre establishment, formerly a bank. One of these projects is The Girl Most Likely To by Michael Premsrirat. The play is a product of the Playwright’s Arena, which nurtures and develops original works by Los Angeles playwrights and the Latino Theatre Company. The play is presented in collaboration with PAE Live which is dedicated to Asian-American artists.

The Girl Most Likely To concerns a Filipino-American boy (Tobit Raphael) who wants nothing more than to dress like a girl and be accepted for who he is. Raphael is delightful in this role and shows a musical talent when he breaks into Christina Aguilera songs (sung to a recording) complete with moves, dance, and feeling. His mother (veteran Fran de Leon) tries to dissuade him from this course of action. But she is hardly one to preach since her favorite uncle was a performing drag queen named Mama Cid (the talented Ramon de Ocampo).

The cast also includes Nicholas Downs as a soldier who falls for Mama Cid and wants to take her back to Texas, which of course is impossible, and the studly Eric Schulman who can’t accept that he too is attracted and gets involved with The Boy. Mandela Bellamy plays The Girl who befriends Raphael’s character, but is she trustworthy? The two other characters, both in drag (and making convincing women), join in the musical numbers; they are played by TeJay McGrath and Mathew Thompson.

The play is as funny as it is gut-wrenching. It focuses on the abuse of LGBT youth, a subject currently in the news. Jon Lawrence Rivera, who has many successes under his belt including Oedipus El Rey, one of the best plays and productions of 2011, has directed with a sure hand. He addresses the script with a realistic compassion and elicits good performances from his cast. Premsrirat has created some memorable characters, especially Mama Cid (who apparently really existed) who knows who and what he is.

The Girl Most LikelyTo will play at L.A.T.C. until May 20, and is well worth the trip downtown.

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