Theater Reviews

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Julianne Argyros Stage, Costa Mesa, Calif.
Through April 6

Using California's Orange County as a lens through which to focus a series of sketches, San Francisco-based Culture Clash takes on as many social, political and cultural stereotypes as it can during its new two-hour show "Culture Clash in AmeriCCa." The material, ranging from pokes at politicians to exposing cultural hypocrisy and ending with a raunchy look at sexual issues, is invariably fresh and occasionally edgy.

Although the core of the satirical sketches and vignettes performed by the three writer-comedians is Latin-centric (a working knowledge of Spanish, though not requisite, adds to the enjoyment), the racial and culture divides they explore know few bounds. On a bare stage -- and against a "Patton"-esque backdrop of a huge American flag, lightly decorated with other motifs as appropriate (including a Muslim crescent moon and star) -- Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza start off with O.C. in their sights, commenting that if "they" (the white Establishment) want to build a wall around Orange County, who do "they" think will do the work?

Moving to Miami, which they return to frequently during the performance, they score with references to such films as "Nacho Libre" and "Scarface," a description of downtown Miami as consisting of "prostitutes, drug dealers, homeless and Brazilians" and an outlandish Cuban-American television commercial featuring boat people. One routine is based on telling Latinos apart by the way they dance salsa: Mexicans flap their arms, Central Americans move their butts ostentatiously, Puerto Ricans are suave and sophisticated with self-important attitude, etc.

Moving north, a Palestinian taxi driver in D.C. complains that there is nothing in the Quran about raising American teenagers (his children "worship Allah and Nike"). He also talks about his divided loyalties and what it's like driving corrupt politicians.

The second half becomes noticeably more intense with a series of vignettes on sexual issues. A smarmy couple leads the audience on a tour of their Orange County swingers club; a man tells an allegorical tale of a Catholic priest and how the "healing of this land" can now begin with his forgiveness of his molester. A transgender health-care educator gives a hysterically detailed description of how his/her new $50,000 pussy will be implanted (after which she'll marry and move to Fashion Island).

Two aging hippy women in the Bay Area recall how Barbie dolls from Berkeley used to have underarm and pubic hair, then move on to a discussion of the "Hillary bitch" and Obama. To perhaps the evening's biggest applause, one explains that she is looking forward to Bush's leaving office, after which "the only bush I'll have to see is my own," to which her friend responds, "Why do you think I've stayed stoned for eight years?"

The evening ends with a delusional man in a wheelchair, homeless in People's Park, describing his vision of a multicultural afterlife in which white Americans are no more than one minority among many, adding ironically that America "is becoming more like heaven every day."

Oddly enough, the show has the good-natured look and feel of family entertainment, though it's probably best for more mature teens. Throughout, underneath the laughter, there is serious questioning of the selfish, hypocritical, corrupt, inconsistent and irrational application of basic values that Culture Clash believes is threatening the country's stability and integrity.

CULTURE CLASH IN AMERICCA
Presented by South Coast Repertory
Credits:
Creators-writers-performers: Culture Clash (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, Herbert Siguenza)
Director: David Emmes
Set/costume consultant: Angela Balogh Calin
Lighting designer: Lonnie Raphael Alcaraz
Sound consultant: BC Keller
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