Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
AIRDATE: OCTOBER 31, 2008
How do you like your humor—straight up and farcical, or craftily knit into the fabric of a drama? We all need a little comic relief in these agitating, exasperating times – and now you can choose your witty poison — a rip- roarin ’, roller-coaster of a classic French/English farce, or a political cautionary tale, part noir mystery, part Latino Family Feud, laced with lacerating, often bilingual humor.
“Water and Power” was written by San Diego native Richard Montoya, co-founder of the acclaimed Chicano troupe, Culture Clash. The play stars Herbert Siguenza , Montoya’s long-time, multi-talented partner in comical and political crime. It’s all about blood being thicker than water – or power. And, taken from their blue-collar father’s low-end job in the Dept. of Water and Power, those are the nicknames of his East L.A. twin sons, whom the good-hearted guy groomed to make a difference in society. They took decidedly divergent paths; one’s a cop and one’s a senator – and over the course of a tough-talking evening, each will staunchly defend and disavow his most cherished values and desires.
It’s a dark, taut 100-minute thriller, with acid-laced laughs and superb performances, expertly directed by Sam Woodhouse , artistic director of the San Diego Repertory Theatre. A few plot threads and resolutions strain comprehension or credulity at the end, but there’s still plenty to chew on. Some folks at the opening said they needed to see it twice, to glean all the levels of meaning in the quick-witted, fast-paced play.
Montoya’s language is terrific – gritty, real, down-and-dirty and often downright poetic. The staging, which includes a rainstorm that sprays front-row onlookers, is configured in the round, or really in the square, recreating a boxing ring that symbolizes the simultaneous competition and protection the father imbued in his boys. And they do fight to the death for each other. There are as many touching as suspenseful moments. Don’t leave your attention or intellect at home for this one. But don’t stay at home and miss it, either.
Now, if you’re up for some deliciously witty, thoroughly mindless fun, look no further than “Don’t Dress for Dinner” at North Coast Repertory Theatre. It’s the old mistaken identity, who’s sleeping with whom and whose spouse is gonna find out panic and pandemonium. And it’s spectacularly executed, under the precise and hair-trigger timed direction of Rosina Reynolds . Her six-person ensemble is fantastic, and the physical comedy is impeccable. The story is more ridiculous than you can imagine, and you really do want to unplug your brain and just enjoy. The costumes are delightful and the pratfalls and sight-gags will tickle even the most confirmed curmudgeon.
So, lighten up this week… and treat yourself to a sinister or a silly escape.
“Water and Power” continues through November 16 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, in Horton Plaza .
“Don’t Dress for Dinner” also runs through November 16, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach .
©2008 PAT LAUNER