Culture Clash (Still) in America

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater
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Richard Montoya, Ricardo Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza may not be the postmodern equivalent of  Moe, Larry and Curly — The Three Stoges — they are more topical, politically charged, and not nearly as silly as The Stooges. But the longevity of Culture Clash is closing in on that of The Stooges. The former have been plying their social satire since May 5 (Cinco de Mayo), 1984; the latter group performed their slapstick shenanigans from 1922 until 1970. Nevertheless, Culture Clash’s legacy will surely outdistance that of the mean-spirited, lowbrow mischievousness of The Stooges given the social consciousness that Culture Clash regularly brings to its performance mediums — be it comedy sketches, full-length plays, or screenplays and film.

Now Culture Clash has conceived a new play, Culture Clash (Still) in America, currently having its debut on the Julianne Argyros Stage of Orange County’s award-winning theater company, South Coast Rep. Loosely directed by Lisa Peterson, leaving plenty of space for the amigos trio to shine through the brightness of their improvisational skills. For example, during a bit in an OC-centric piece about the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, two of the CC performers, Richard Montoya and Herbert Siguenza, mix-up the scripted dialogue, and to the delight of the audience, go into an improvisational riff that is witty, spontaneous, and hilariously creative). Regardless of the comedic combustibility inherent in the this rendition of CC’s commentary on America, there is also an underlying relevance and seriousness to the proceedings.

The topics addressed range from the detention of immigrants and the separation of children from their parents to the color of Christ and how this human symbol of Christianity — the very embodiment of God and the Holy Spirit — could be transformed from a brown-skin Middle Easterner to a blue-eyed white man. Also, broached are the subjects of homosexuality, transgender relationships, ageism, and the soul of 1960’s activism. The chameleon-like performance abilities of Montoya, Salinas, and Siguenza appear to have no boundaries when it comes to gender, race, ethnicity, or class. The three actors are fluid in their characterizations and fearless with the issues in which (both as writers and performers) they take-on with abandon.

With the support of Christopher Acebo’s scenic design, Carolyn Mazuca’s costuming, Tom Ontiveros’s lighting and indispensable projection design, and Paul James Pendergast’s musical compositions and sound design, theatergoers in 90-minutes get a topical tour, if not a cure, for the culture clashes and contradictions inherent in today’s America, something The Three Stooges of yesteryear would nor could address.

Culture Clash (Still) in America continues at South Coast Rep through January 20. For reservations call (714) 708-5555. For online ticketing and further information visit scr.org.