Becoming Conocido

The set up of Isabel Salazar’s Becoming Conocido looks and sounds intriguing. Salazar performs the piece herself as Jennifer, a girl searching through photographs and old memories in an attempt to settle that elusive question: ‘who am I?’ It’s a play which attempts to deal head on with issues of racism and the extent to which our culture and language defines who we are. Good ideas do not always make good theatre though and this play has little other than a decent idea to carry itself on.

When the play opens, Salazar lies sleeping in the middle of the stage, curled up in a ball, surrounded by heaps of paper piled around the stage. It looks artsy and suggests this could be a creative production. Unfortunately, other than raking through the mountains of paper and pinning them up on a washing-line with the air of a kid’s TV presenter, Salazar doesn’t really make use of this set-up. The advert for the show also promises ‘projected images’ - perhaps my eyesight was failing me but all I could see was blank sheets of paper and some paper chain people.

As soon as Salazar begins to act it is clear that she simply does not have the acting skills to give a convincing performance. Too often she stumbles over her lines and her delivery is forced and hyperbolic to the point that it becomes annoying. She also shouts too much which seems to be a way of compensating for the lack of real acting. Shouting something doesn’t necessarily endow it with any more impact and a more subtle approach to acting might have made for a more convincing performance. Salazar’s attempt to tackle issues surrounding ethnic identity is admirable but her acting just doesn’t come off as believable and so any interest in Jennifer’s identity crisis is lost. This seems a bit harsh but nothing can redeem this play from Salazar’s inability to act.

Becoming Conocido is a good concept which suffers from a clichéd script and poor acting. Despite only being forty-five minutes long, the time really dragged. It’s a shame because the idea holding the play together could make for good theatre but it needs a lot of work. It’s not often a play leaves you feeling completely apathetic. Even when Salazar dances like a chicken, which is presumably meant to provoke laughs, it just all feels uninspiring and dull. Like the blank pieces of paper Salazar hangs up throughout the show, the only real reaction to this piece is apathy.

The Blurb

Confronted by choices on the ethnicity portion of her school application, Jennifer searches childhood memories and photographs for answers and realizes identifying herself may not be as easy as she thought. Winner, Best of Fest, Frontera Fest 2006.