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Meet Puerto Rican Princess
Carmen Mofongo

by Paulanne Simmons

The many faces of Carmen Mofongo.

"The Carmen Mofongo Show"
Written and performed by Michele Carlo
Surf Reality House of Urban Savages
172 Allen Street, 2nd Floor (between Stanton & Rivington)
Tickets: $10
672-4182 or www.surfreality.org
Beginning February, the third Saturday of every month

Mofongo is the star and host of her own antic extravaganza, a variety show that would make Ed Sullivan turn over in his grave. She sings. She recites. She plays games and interacts with the audience. She introduces a bunch of wacky comedians who bask in her sunshine but are, unfortunately, less than brilliant.

In real life, Carmen Mofongo is the Bronx-raised Michele Carlo, a petite Puerto Rican with enough sparkle to light up all of San Juan. In the tradition of those Jewish comics who once circulated on the Borscht Belt and then made it big, she has lots of fun with her own roots.

Carlo writes her own material and delivers it in a just-off-the-boat accent. Often there's a theme running through the evening's performance, which is indicated by her outré chapeau.

For "Carmen Mofongo's Coquito Coquito Christmas 2001: A Coquito Odyssey" on December 15 and 22, the Puerto Rican powerhouse welcomed the holiday season with a nutcracker and a menorah - perched elegantly on her head. She had a good time warbling original Christmas carols with verses like, "Christmas time/glasses clinking/'cause it's time/to be drinking," and saluting her Jewish friends, who gave us "nuclear fission, litigation and circumcision."

It was Carmen's third annual holiday bash, and each person in the audience was offered a shot of her famous homemade coquito, the traditional Puerto Rican holiday drink, which she describes as a blend of "rum, milk, rum, coconut, rum eggs, rum, vanilla, rum, spices and rum." A lucky few got their own bottle - if they could answer Carmen's Christmas trivia questions.

For some reason, Carlo, who's really a one-woman show on speed, has decided to beef up her act with a bunch of stand-up comics who should have stayed in their seats, and a not-very-funny vocal group that sings badly, dances awkwardly and hold instruments no one plays.

Go figure.

Michele, you've got a future. Tell the hangers-on to get lost, and go for it.


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