Author Archive for: ‘CarolBenet’

“Culture Clash (Still) in America at Berkeley Rep.

“Culture Clash  (Still) in America” at Berkeley Repertory

Carol Benet 

Returning to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre after several earlier shows, “Culture Clash (Still) in America” is an update  of the activities and injustices facing Latina  and other minorities in America.

The troupe Culture Clash, founded in 1984 at the La Galeria de la Raza in the Mission District in San Francisco, has produced several works and  that toured the nation. Three of its founders, Richard Montoya, Ricardo Salinas and Herbert Sigüenza, created this show as if the three of them were on a road trip across the country where they interviewed people and then recreated and impersonated them for this play.  It is a series of short skits basted on the interviews. 

It begins with a prisoner in his orange jump suit in detention prison in Richmond for having illegally crossed the border with his seven year old daughter.  When she is ripped away from him,  he tells her that she is going to go camping so she has a smile on her face.  The two men from ICE interrogate him  but there is a surprise party ending to the skit.

The next part is the funniest in the show. A married couple played by two of the three Culture Clash actors are being videoed by the third. The couple, a Cuban wife and a burly guy of Norwegian heritage, have “made a killing” in the wife’s mother’s demolition company that was hired after the hurricane in South Florida. They are red necks who talk over each other to tell their stories.  When asked what they did with the toxic waste they uncovered they answer that it sometimes went into the Everglades and other public lands.  When confronted with the concept of “Black Lives Matter” they respond, “White lives matter too” as an excuse for their right wing believes.

The next interview is of a Muslim man who is about to perform his prayers.  He talks about the injustices to his children and all Muslims in this country faced after 9/11 because of the growing xenophobia.  This skit, except for a few light moments, it is dead serious.

An evangelist preacher comes next with music blaring while he runs around the stage to engage the worshipers. Another very funny skit has a Puerto Rican  man from the lower East Side of Manhattan walking on stage with a boom box.  He then demonstrates the ways different Latinas do salsa dancing. Some flap their arms one way, another the other way. He also adds a few white people dances such as the River Dance that he thinks is silly.  

Adelita, a transgender, sex changed now straight woman, goes into great detail about her transformation.   The change starts with the therapy she underwent and the medications and actual physical changes, and then the operation.  In describing the latter she remarks that the audience has become very quiet  when hearing about what actually happens in a sex change — man to woman —operation. And it has!

Next is in the Federal Courthouse in Texas with a buttoned down lawyer who defends the children who were put in cages.  He describes the death of seven children and ends asking “Can a country that cages children   — is that country still America?” Then come two old hippie women from the 60s  who are now grandmothers and while getting high they talk about their grandkids and reminisce about the good old days.  

Other interviews follow in a 90 minute, intermission less show that is funny at the same time that it is poignant and very sad because of the realities that the Latinas or other minorities in 

America face.  

The sets by (Christopher Acebo) are wonderful with an American flag that is multi-colored from all the countries represented.  Carolyn Mazuca’s costumes capture all the people represented with honesty and much flare.  Tom Ontiveros provides the projections and lighting and Paul James Prendergast the musical compositions and sound.  All of them are excellent theater technicians.

“Culture Clash (Still) in America” runs through April 5 at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.   Tickets from berkeleyrep.org or 510 647 2949.

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