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Theatre Review (LA): The King of the Desert at the El Portal Theatre

The King of the Desert is a passionate one-man show about a man finding his cultural identity. Rene Rivera portrays the man in question in the play by Stacey Martino, a co-production of Coactive Content (Martino is the Founder and Artistic Director) and American Latino Theatre Company (David Llauger-Meiselman, Artistic Director). The award–winning Sal Romeo is the director. All are lifetime members of The Actors Studio.

It is hard for a non-Latino to realize the alienation a Mexican must feel in his own country, now crowded with drug cartels, as well as living life in the barrios in the United States. The premise is that Mexican culture has a proud history, with its citizenry descended from Mayan kings. Throughout the play, Rivera struggles to find this nobility in himself, finding his salvation in becoming an actor and discovering an outlet for his passion, his anger, and his enormous heart.

In this journey of self-discovery we meet his family and explore his life as an actor in New York, where Latinos are often typecast as illegal aliens or gang members. Much to his credit Rivera develops a skill with Shakespeare and ends up beside Al Pacino in Oscar Wilde’s Salome. He has performed in several major plays including Hamlet directed by Kevin Kline, Way of The World directed by David Greenspan, and several productions at the Belasco Theatre all directed by Estelle Parsons. Like Rivera, we discover how art can transform our history and release our inner beingness.

The King of The Desert will play at the El Portal Theatre until Dec. 4. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Latino Children’s Institute, the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation, and the Youth Policy Institute. Featured in the lobby is an art exhibition celebrating Mexican-American culture by artist Maja along with Milagros (artwork created by Latino children representing their dreams and aspirations). This is a production meant to inform and inspire.

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