Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
January 16, 2015
It’s 2017, and a relentless young militant, an Iraq War vet named Trish, is shot in front of the White House by a cop who accidentally used a bullet instead of a stun-gun. She immediately embarks on a stunning, mind-bending flashback, reliving her life and the history of American political protest.
So begins “Steal Heaven,” a world premiere written and co-directed by Herbert Siguenza, a founding member, 30 years ago, of the influential Chicano comedy trio, Culture Clash.
The new show is highly reminiscent of a Culture Clash production: 1/3 silly, 1/3 agit -prop and 1/3 juicy political humor and provocation.
“Steal Heaven” is all about reminiscence – for the wild and crazy atmosphere and activism of the ‘60s, embodied in Abbie Hoffman, the Clown Prince of the Left, renegade prankster who, with the Yippie Party he co-founded, actually ran a pig for U.S. President in 1968. Thirty years later, Hoffman committed suicide, at age 52.
Now he’s the St. Peter of Radicals, stationed at the pearly gates on a heavenly mission to find the next great Leftie leader. Trish makes the cut and enters Hoffman’s Radical U, an extreme training that will enable her to return to earth to mobilize a revolution – of the most peaceful, pot-fueled kind.
The premise allows for a funny and fascinating juxtaposition of the dissidents of yesterday and today. The current crop doesn’t fare too well.
Despite an unconvincing New York accent, Siguenza is persuasive as the curly-haired, jocular stoner, Hoffman. But the tour de force performances come from his two sidekicks: irresistible Summer Spiro, spectacularly athletic, both physically and verbally, as the confrontational lesbian, Trish. Mega-talented mimic Mark Pinter is flat-out hilarious as everyone else, from George Burns and Albert Einstein to John Lennon, Baghwan Shree Rajneesh and Julia Child. The costumes and wigs are a hoot.
San Diego Rep associate artistic director Todd Salovey co-directs this wacky mayhem, backed by evocative music and provocative projections. Like all good counterculture comedies, behind the zany antics and F-bomb humor, there’s a serious call to action. Power to the People!
“Steal Heaven” runs through January 25, at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in Horton Plaza.
©2015 PAT LAUNER