Kiss My Aztec! – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Hartford Stage wants us to get funky for some serious campy fun and oodles of laughter as it presents the irreverent with a capitol I new show “Kiss My Aztec!” until Sunday, June 26. The history of the Aztecs and their rivals from Spain has been refashioned by John Leguizamo and Tony Taccone, with music by Benjamin Velez, lyrics by David Kamp, Leguizamo and Velez and choreography by Mayte Natalio into a riotous comedy that blows holes into what really happened way back in the 16th century. With spectacular scenic and costume design by Clint Ramos, exotic lighting by Alexander V. Nichols, spot on sound conceived by Jessica Paz and Beth Lake and outstanding direction by Tony Taccone, this production swells to outrageous heights that are not for those who fear falling.

Come meet a budding Disney princess Colombina, a can’t wait to prove my bravery Krystina Alabado, whose Aztec leader father, a determined Eddie Cooper, desperately wants to defeat the invading Spaniards but wants his darling daughter to stay home and knit. Colombina is championed by her shy suitor, the company clown Pepe, an inventive Joel Perez, who moons over her when he isn’t playing with his puppets Machu and Pichu. Meanwhile back in Spain, the King, a seemingly relaxed Matt Saldivar, has more than the Aztecs on his plate: he has a diffident son Fernando, a mind of his own Z Infante, and a disobedient daughter Pilar, who wants to pick her own lovers and husband Desiree Rodriguez as well as his own distinct fondness for tapas.

Moving clandestinely between the two camps is the witch/spy Tolima, whose ruby necklace figures prominently as worn and lost by Maria-Christina Oliveras, as well as the Fixer from France, Pierre Pierrot, a puzzling piece of parlance Richard Ruiz Henry and the Captain Soldier led by a commanding Chad Carstarphen. The music, a festive mix of reggae, hip-hop, salsa, funk, meringue and gospel, is captured in such tunes as “Make the Impossible Possible,” sung and danced by the Aztecs, “Tango in the Closet,” crooned by Fernando and his lover the Head of the Inquisition, “ Everyone Needeth a Fixer” chanted by Pierre Pierrot and “Spooneth Me” a duet between the King and his would-be assassin Colombina.

Think of “Kiss My Aztec!” as a mash-up between “The Book of Mormon,” “A Chorus Line,” “Spamalot” and “West Side Story.” Clever inventiveness rules the day when Latinx history gets a wild and wonderful rewrite. Watch for a magic crystal, a blood-red moon, an electric fan, a duel of words not swords, a series of slaps, underground tunnels and see if you come to the conclusion that “God is gay.”

For tickets ($30-100), call Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at HartfordStage.org. Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. For COVID requirements, visit hartfordstage.org/covid-19.

With everything from Elizabethan dialect, references to everyone from “Romeo and Juliet” to you-know-whose infamous wall, you won’t have a moment to be bored as “Kiss My Aztec!” takes you on a wild ride back to 1540 and what happens when “White People on Boats” arrive. A fellow audience member Sandra described it as “a bouillabaisse of history, fun, action, laughs and love with a side order of tapas!!” Come practice your

Cha-cha and discover all the fun and festivity for yourself.

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