The Last Emperor of Mexico — Comical with a Modern Take on Spanish History
Earlier this week, we gave you a preview and inside look into Chris Davis’ The Last Emperor of Mexico. And after connecting via Twitter and seeing other publicity from sources such as WHYY’s NewsWorks… Luner on Theatre had to see if the hype lived up to the tale.
Needless to say it did!
Nestled into the Italian Market in South Philadelphia is Los Amigos Meat Market, which for the night became a 20-seat theatre for Davis’ production. Before the show, hispanic music played throughout the shop, setting the scene very well. When I arrived, Davis immediately recognized me (which was very impressive) and took myself and my guest’s orders for tamales, which would be served at the end of the show.
But let’s get into the show itself! The show is split into four portions: A prologue and three acts. The prologue details Davis’ (who closely bears resemblance to Maximilian with his beard) real life experiences as he tries to tell his mother (who sat right in the front row and was utilized) that he is leaving for Mexico, where he would go on to be living for the next three years (also where he learned of the Country’s history). Quickly after, act one begins. Act one details Maximillian’s appointment to Mexico by Napoleon III of France. Quickly interacting with the audience with high-five’s and questioning, this wasn’t the last of the interactivity in the show.
Act two embarks as Maximilian, who has now become Maximiliano heads for Mexico and is “elected” the (Last) Emperor of Mexico. This is where the fun really starts — beginning with a real life election where the audience decides who will take the office. A unanimous vote for Maximiliano (compared to voting for Benito Juarez or Vincente Fernandez), he takes the office and declares his wife, Charlotte of Belgium (now Carlota in Mexico) the Empress. Did I mention that Carlota was the lady sitting in front of me?
Act three (the final act) is centered around Maximiliano’s downfall and demise. Despite his Empire gaining recognition from major world powers such as Britain and Austria, the United States recognized Juarez as the legal president of Mexico. Juarez and his forces revolt and my guest and another audience member were then selected to be General Sword and General Mace (and given the physical props) to defend the Empire. The attempt ultimately fails as the two Generals and Maximilian are set to die by firing squad. But wait! Maximilian has a choice… he can escape the prison under one condition: Shave his beard so he isn’t recognized! He angrily denies the offer and is killed, but not before giving a powerful monologue regarding death, what’s to come after and one’s legacy on Earth.
“A stellar combination of history, humor, and modern storytelling.” – Luner on Theatre
After the show concludes, Davis ditches the costume to serve tamales, made fresh during the show. Delicious to say the least… the night ends with camaraderie and conversation in the shop located at the corner of 9th St. and Montrose Ave.
If I had to give one negative note about the performance (and the only one at that) is that the powerful monologue at the end was a bit rushed, not giving the audience the time to take it in. On the other hand, doing a one-man show and having to do monologues myself in the past, I totally understand as they can be a lot to tackle in the rehearsal process, which then transfers into the performance.
But on to the positives — The use of shop items such as Bertolli and breadcrumbs as props was clever and innovative, although the best part of the show by far was the modern take on an ancient tale. Davis thoroughly understands his audience by putting modern elements into the show. Using texting lingo, references to President Trump, and your every day sibling rivalry… the audience could understand, yet also relate!
The show was also unspeakably funny! Between Davis yelling out the shop door to the “revolutionaries” and using phrases such as, “GTFO,” I was laughing a lot throughout the one-hour show.
Overall, I definitely recommend this show — It’s funny, modern, you will learn and you will have a good time! The intimate space of Los Amigos builds a bond amongst the audience as they learn the tale of “The Last Emperor of Mexico.”
While a tamale and soft drink are included with your ticket, I should also note that Pat’s Steaks and Geno’s are close by if you are looking for a “night out in Philly” package. Regardless, Los Amigos is open seven days a week serving tamales, tacos, burritos, carne asada and more meats to buy and cook at home (including their famous chorizo)!
A stellar combination of history, humor, and modern storytelling, The Last Emperor of Mexico continues it’s run, Feb. 27 — Mar. 4 starting at 6:30 p.m. each night. The show will close on Mar. 5 with an earlier performance of 5 p.m.