In 2002, three UCLA students collaborate on a racial stereotype-inspired performance piece that blends theater, stand-up comedy, poetry and hip-hop. A scant two years later their show has transferred to the Los Angeles Theatre Center and garners rave reviews. Before long the trio is touring 32 states, selling out venues, and a grassroots phenomenon is born. As part of that tour, the show with the name people are still uncomfortable to say aloud returns to Los Angeles for a third time since its inception. The brainchild of Rafael Agustin, Allan Axibal and Miles Gregley, as well as their former mentors Liesel Reinhart and Steven T. Seagle (who both direct), the show features new additions Dionysio Basco and Jackson McQueen who, along with Agustin, keep audiences rolling with laughter. Since the show first opened, we have seen the rise of Obama and Sotomayor, yet we've also seen open racial slurs from elements within the Tea Party and the passage of SB 1070, Arizona's strict immigration law. Two steps forward, one step back. So more than ever, we need a show that embraces, dismantles and remixes the racial stereotypes that simmer beneath the surface. The three actors do a fabulous job of squeezing in sentimental moments of poignancy, but revert back to comedy before they become trite or preachy. Reinhart and Seagle's direction keeps the actors efficiently darting in and out of the Mondrian curtain of colored squares that serves as backdrop, and Kristie Roldan's nimble lighting keeps pace, even if the actors sometimes don't quite find their marks. N.W.C. is most definitely in the house, and you'd be wise to catch them before they're Audi once more. A Speak Theater Arts Production. Barnsdall Gallery Theater, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., E. Hollywood; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru April 23. (818) 618-2348, itsmyseat.com/NWC.html.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: April 1. Continues through April 23, 2011