Jennifer Chung Klam’s review of SELF (THE REMIX)

March 7, 2010

self (the remix) at Tenth Avenue Theatre

Mo’olelo production examines fluidity of identity
By Jennifer Chung Klam
Posted on Sun, Mar 7th, 2010
Last updated Sun, Mar 7th, 2010

These days it might seem like the Tenth Avenue Theatre downtown has been taken over by a new nightclub. It hasn’t – but the heavy beat thumping from the space might entice a stray clubber or two during the run of Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company’s production of self (the remix).

Dave Dimaano, also known as DJ D Double, even lures audience members down to the stage floor to get their groove on before the show begins. As it turns out, the dance floor is a pretty good metaphor for the mixed-up, collision of cultures at the heart of self and its writer-performer Robert Farid Karimi.

A spoken word artist that’s been on a winning team of the National Poetry Slam and featured on Def Poetry Jam, Karimi comes from a mix of cultural backgrounds – half Guatemalan, half Iranian; raised both Catholic and Muslim; brought up on disco, ‘80s new wave, hip hop and punk. All of these influences mingle in Karimi’s autobiographical performance, which is part play, part spoken word and part hip hop, sometimes political and habitually hilarious.

You’re probably getting the idea for the “remix” part of the title. When a DJ does a remix, she takes a familiar song and rearranges it into something completely new.

“We are the DJ,” Karimi says at the beginning of the show, constantly mixing and remixing our lives. The metaphor is an apt one, not only for mixed-race people, but cultural hyphenates who struggle for acceptance and extended to just about anyone who’s felt pulled in different cultural directions (the salsa-dancing football-playing cross dresser, the sci-fi addict rapper grandma, etc.).

Growing up against the backdrop of the Iranian hostage crisis and Reaganomics, Karimi tells stories of his adolescence, where it wasn’t easy growing up half Iranian, the son of immigrants. He describes the discrimination he endured, from being excluded from his elementary class picture to uniting his schoolmates through the collective experience of kicking his “turban-wearing burrito eater” ass.

Along the way, Karimi introduces us to myriad characters, including an old Chicano hipster, Disco Jesus and his own parents – who even tell Karimi he’s doing a terrible job with their accents. The story of how his parents met and fell in love is especially tender and irreverent, all at once.

But that’s how Karimi rolls. His rebellious attitude toward religion finds humor in the ritualistic and dogmatic, culminating in his vision of Jesus as a discotheque diva that tells him to “get down with your Muslim-Catholic self.”

DJ D Double – spinning ‘80s tunes (a booty shake down memory lane for those of us of a certain era) along with disco, hip hop, heavy metal and an eclectic mix of stuff you’ve never heard – delights the audience again and again with his musical choices. Karimi and his DJ are in near perfect synch.

Karimi has been performing self across the country since 2001, updating and tweaking the text for each locale. Expect local references. The performance seems to have been pieced together from various spoken word poems, and there are moments, especially toward the end, that feel disjointed. Taking a peek into Karimi’s surreal, whirlpool mind is a wild ride, but you can get lost in the mayhem.

Karimi’s storytelling style involves plenty of dancing and movement, and his high-energy performance never wanes throughout the 90-minute show. His poetry is mostly accessible, witty and thought provoking. I say mostly because there may be a head scratching moment here or there, perhaps followed by home Googling. However, spoken word tends to be far less esoteric than any poetry you’ll find in The New Yorker.

That’s right, I said it. I’m not into that cryptic New Yorker crap. But I’m still going to get down with my spoken word-loving, Chinese-American, theater-going, closeted ‘80s music fan self.

Dates 7:30pm Thurs-Sat, 2pm Sun through March 21
Organization Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company
Phone 619-342-7395
Production Type Play
Region Downtown
Ticket Prices $22-$27
Venue Tenth Avenue Theatre, 930 10th Ave, San Diego


Jennifer Chung Klam

About the author: Jennifer Chung Klam is an editor at The Daily Transcript and a freelance arts and culture writer.


2 Responses to “Jennifer Chung Klam’s review of SELF (THE REMIX)”

  1. Lee Says:

    I am a fan of Mo’olelo, but I did not enjoy this show at all. After talking with 3 other people who were at the show today, we all agreed it was the worst of all the Mo’olelo performances to date. Please save your money and attend the next Mo’olelo show.

  2. Nami Says:

    Everyone should go see for themselves. I (77 yrs.), my husband (79 yrs.), my 87 & 88 year old cousins were all fascinated with the energy, talent, and creativity displayed by both actors (?? players, mimes, clowns, sensitive social commentaries, electronics engineers, unclassifiable people????) I would have liked to get down on the stage and just watched the DJ doing what he does, but I had to split my time because Roberto was just as fascinating. We just loved it, a college age family member was blown away by it, and the 50 year old parents of the young man were looking a little confused – but then, they’re from the east coast and not too open to talented chaos makers. What a great evening we had!!!

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