Alien nation: Culture Clash in AmeriCCa | Bleader

Friday, August 15, 2008

Alien nation: Culture Clash in AmeriCCa

Posted By on 08.15.08 at 02:11 PM

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The United States is a nation of immigrants and their descendants, who often challenge and compete with each other along arbitrary ethnic, religious, sexual, and class lines. If that's news to you, Culture Clash in AmeriCCa might be an eye-opener. To me, the show--performed by the California-based Latino trio Culture Clash as part of Goodman Theatre's Latino Theatre Festival 08--smacked of preaching to the converted.

The opening night audience appreciated the ironic humor in this evening of monologues and sketches, but the people whose closed minds might be opened by Culture Clash's wry critique of prejudice probably won't be buying tickets for the production, which runs through this weekend (Fri-Sat 8/15-16 8 PM, Sun 8/17, 7:30 PM, $25-$35). That's too bad, because there's no questioning the accuracy of their vision of America's cultural diversity, and the performances are extraordinary.

Founded in 1984 in San Francisco's Mission District, Culture Clash consists of writer-performers Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza. Each brilliantly and fully inhabits a wide range of roles, expertly fusing stand-up comedy with nuanced acting. Among the characters: an Arab-American cab driver recounting his friendship with a Jewish deli owner, a Cuban furniture store owner who uses a fake Fidel Castro in his commercials, a Filipino and a Ghanaian sharing the experience of being sworn in as U.S. citizens, a Salvadoran refugee startled by the disconnect between the reality of American life and the image portrayed in 1970s sitcoms, an African-American preacher mocking the stereotype of a blue-eyed Jesus, a transgendered Latina who explains in clinical detail the surgery that will transform her from male to female, and a Boston Irish-American Catholic who finds the real meaning of Christianity by forgiving the priest who molested him as a boy.

The show's been tweaked for its run here, with crowd-pleasing allusions to the Cubs, the Sox, and Bernie Mac--as well as to John Edwards and Barack Obama. Indeed, Culture Clash's take on the foolishness of prejudice is especially timely now, as right wing rumormongers wage war against America's first multiracial presidential candidate by attacking his patriotism and faith. But it's doubtful that Culture Clash in AmeriCCa will reach the audience that most need it. The evening's second half--a reading of Chavez Ravine, the ensemble's new drama about the displacement of Latino families by land developers in 1950s Los Angeles--was underrehearsed on opening night, but it's probably tighter now.

Also this weekend at Latino Fest: Taking Flight, an autobiographical solo performance by Adriana Sevan that won a 2007 San Diego Critics Circle Award (Fri-Sat 8/15-8/16 8 PM, and Sun 8/17 3 PM, $15), plus free staged readings of three plays: Our Dad Is in Atlantis (Sat 8/16 12:30 PM), Walk Into the Sea (Sat 8/16 3 PM), and Little Certainties (Sun 8/17 7:30 PM).

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