his NEA award-winning piece $CASINOAMERICA$,
performance artist Jose Torres Tama examines
gambling as a metaphor for life in contemporary
America. While commenting on a culture that
glorifies greed, he declares that we are
all gamblers in one way or another and that
"taking chances" is an intrinsic
aspect of modern existence.
people take chances with their lives
through sexual gambles in an age plagued
by the AIDS virus. Others, such as the
millions of immigrants who have descended
upon this land for a chance at the "American
dream," risk their cultural heritage
and identity. The working class gamble
their meager earnings to achieve overnight
wealth and prosperity at the expense
of their soul and humanity.
Tama weaves these concepts into a surrealistic,
multi-layered verbal collage, combining
metaphoric prose, rituals of fire, bilingual
poetry, and movement and incantations.
Moving rapidly from poetic drama to
the hilariously absurd, he delivers
the hour-long monologue with various
personae and manages to sculpt a visceral
tableau of haunting images that have
a lasting effect.
"El Mephisto Moderno," a combination
of a Latino game show host and a modern
day Mephistopheles, Torres Tama entices
you to "just give sleaze a chance."
the fictional name of a decadent land where
the citizenry are absorbed in gambling as
a religious ritual.