Gala Hispanic Theater is mining a few gazillion pop-cultural references of its own in The True History of Coca-Cola in Mexico, at least theoretically to more pointed effect. The show, written by Aldo Velasco and Patrick Scott, follows a performance artist named Pat (Daniel Eichner) and a filmmaker named Aldo (Jaime Robert Carrillo) on a mission to Mexico in which they intend to make a documentary examining the corrosive effects of Coca-Cola on something other than teeth and battery terminals.
The play sets itself up as a satirical commentary on how capitalism irrevocably destroys traditions outside the United States (are Mexicans sacrificing a culture developed over centuries for a Coke and fries?) and after a frenetic and fairly exhaustive history lesson (one of the authors is a middle-school teacher), it approaches that task with a certain gimmicky flair.
It does not, however, have much to say that’s terribly fresh about its central subject and instead settles for satirizing easy Hollywood targets, from the insensitivity of fatuous do-gooders to the Oscar-acceptance speeches they give. Designer Elizabeth J. McFadden offers projections on a spare set that looks a bit like a Coke billboard with cutouts, and Jose Carrasquillo’s staging buttresses the script with everything from live telenovela episodes to conquistador helmets. The intermission is labeled “The Pause That Refreshes,” and at one point, Eichner strips to his skivvies, smears himself with refried beans, and wraps himself in a giant tortilla. But as satire, the show, alas, just ain’t the real thing.