I’ve often thought what it would be like to climb into Herbert Sigüenza’s head. Yes that Sigüenza of the Latin comedy group “Culture Clash”. I later abandoned the idea thinking there should only be one of his kind.
For over thirty years of writing, adapting and performing fifteen original award winning plays including “Radio Mambo”, “Zorro In Hell” “El Henry” “Chavez Ravine” and the world premiere “Manifest Destinitis” based on an early California adaptation of Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid” seen in 2016 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre this talented artist, prolific writer and seriously funny genius is at it again.
Sigüenza, now a Playwright in Residence at The S.D. Rep. is baack with another riff on Moliere’s “School For Wives” or “Molière in Sinaloa” or Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” or Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Ernest”…remember Bunbury?
It’s definitely a mix and match of the above but “Wives” will stand out among the others. He’s calling it “Bad Hombres/Good Wives”. It is now playing through Oct. 27th on the Lyceum Stage. Leading the troops artistic director Sam Woodhouse is in his element.
If you’ve ever tried to make a Julia Childs leftover’s in the fridge ready to cook, you might want to think of “Bad Hombres/Good Wives” as a mix and match symptom of what’s going on in the world today; ergo, just throw all the good/ bad ‘stuff’ into a bowl and mix, or in the case of the soup, put in pot and bring to a boil.
It’s 1992 and Don Ernesto (an excellent John Padilla) is at home in Cuilacan where he is the head of the powerful drug cartel. But outside his fortress in Monte Verda, he is known as Professor Don Ramiro Bunbury a scholarly professor. (Sound familiar?). He’s getting his palatial home ready for a wedding.
|Herbert Sigüenza and Ricardo Salinas|
His deaf house manager, Armida (Herbert Sigüenza) takes care of both, ego and alter ego men and tries to keep him/them in line and even though she has professed to being hard of hearing she knows exactly what’s going on. It’s a long story.
Like “Manifest Destinitis” “Hombres” is part spoof, part take on real life situations on the drug culture, fidelity and infidelity, corruption in the church and a woman’s/feminists place in society weighed against the machismo attitudes of Don Ernesto.
His old -fashioned chauvinistic beliefs kick in sooner rather than later. He has been grooming his young ward Eva (Yvette Angulo) in a convent until she was of age, supposing she was brought up by the nuns to be subservient to her husband. (Dream on.) Now he’s ready to get married and he sends Arimeda to the Convent to bring her to him so that they can tie the knot.
Along the way, at the train station where she is to meet Armida to bring her to Don Ernesto, a handsome young man, Mario Grande (Jose Balistrieri), saves her from two ‘creepy guys’ who want to dance (dirty dance) with her.
|Yvette Angula and Jose Balistrieri|
Mario is on his way to his father’s funeral with his mother (“I never loved that SOB”) Lucha Grande (Roxane Carrasco), a tough and macha feminine popular Banda singer. (“I don’t need a pinche hombre to be happy.”)
Like the Romeo and Juliet characters, it’s love at first sight. (“You saved me like Prince Valliant”). When she tells him her story he’s amazed at her knowledge about 'Guillermo' Shakespeare. Her story of professor Ramiro Bunbry”, someone he has never heard of in his studies draws concerns but time is of the essence.
He loves Shakespeare. She knows Shakespeare but trouble is on the horizon. Ava’s faster than the speed of sound, soon to be love interest is the son of Ernesto’s cartel rival. Armida arrives and whisks Eva off-“Parting is such sweet sorrow”.
And so we have bumbling bodyguards, or call them what you like, (strong men dressed in gold lame –tight mariachi shorts- briefs - silk scarves around their necks designed by Carman Amon), Leo and Tito (Daniel Ramos III and Solomon Maya, who also double as grave diggers, and dancers).
|Ricardo Salinas and Adrian Kulich Rodriguez|
There are bedrooms, and bedroom window break-ins, locked and slamming doors, a band off stage playing Spanish music and Spanish sub-titles projected above the stage, for whatever reason, a solitary tuba (Adrian Kulich Rodriguez) musician who roams the stage or takes center stage playing.
Adding insult to injury, Sigüenza’s partner in crime (‘Culture Clash’) Rick, Ricardo, Salinas is the corrupt and dare I say gay,wanting to come 'out' Catholic Priest, Padre Alberto.
So, something for everyone: comedy, satire, farce, mistaken identity, (Narco Telenovals), music (Bostich), cross- dressing and a strong push for strong women. Tragedy? Not so much, but literary based, YES.
|Daniel Ramos III and Solomon Maya wiyh Roxane Corrasco|
No one can fault the actors for their robust and committed peruse of ahem, truth as they want us to know it. The overall production is fast paced lasting a bit over two hours. Much of the first act is taken up with exposition while of most of the cleanup comes after intermission.
It’s a wild and wooly ride that tickled the funny bones of those in the audience the day I attended. I hesitate to say that while I enjoy and have enjoyed almost all of Sigüenza’s work, from the very start of his “Culture Clash” roots, to his “Picasso”, “El Henry”, to “Manifest Destinitis”, I was underwhelmed by this one.
I found it, yes contemporary with a strong push for women’s rights but too predictable. Unfortunately I was unable to appreciate much of the punchlines of the jokes in Spanish to find what other's found funny. With all due respect, it could have been shorter.
Outstanding in his performance as Armida, Sigüenza must be singled out as among the best of the best cross dressers and drag queens out there on our stages today. His partner in crime, Salinas is a hoot and I found his character, while corrupt and even sleazy, fun to watch.
Heading high on the list, and the performances are so good it’s tough to put them in any order, Roxane Carrasco is hot as the one eyed Banda Singer and tough as Cartel wife and mother to her college graduate son.
Yvette Angulo is perfect as the fiery little innocent and Jose Balistrieri is the handsome to the rescue and love interest boyfriend any gal would want on her side.
Padilla and Salinas make fine bookends as the good guy/bad guy combo. Both are pretty treacherous and easily convincing, silly as they are.
|John Padilla, Ricardo Salinas and Jose Balistrieri|
Chris Rynne’s lighting along with Sean Fanning’s different locations, Matt Lescault-Wood’s sound and Samantha Rojales’ projections fill the sage with good humor, lessons to be learned and music.
But beware, Sigüenza strikes again and from the looks of it, there is more in his bag of tricks.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Oct. 27
Organization: San Diego Repertory Theatre
Production Type: Comedy/ Satire
Where: 79 Horton Plaza, Downtown San Diego, CA
Ticket Prices: $25.00 -$72.00
Venue: Lyceum Stage
Photo: Jim Carmody