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Theater Review: “Culture Clash (Still) in America”

“Culture Clash (Still) in America” plays through January 20, 2019 at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.
Photo credit:
Jordan Kubat/SCR

How time flies.

Remember that wild and crazy Culture Clash trio (Richard Montoya, Ricardo Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza), that delights in delving into touchy topics like immigration with pointed but funny sketches based on interviews with people in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, New York, Miami, Boston and the nation’s capital?

It’s hard to believe, but they’ve been at it for 35 years. And now they’re back at South Coast Repertory, with a 90-minute show called “Culture Clash (Still) in America.”

They’re still committed to their mission of holding up a mirror to this wacky land of immigrants on the way to defining what America is – and convincing us that we’re here, we’re all different and we’d be a lot better off playing nicely together than isolating ourselves and making life difficult for whatever we each define as “the other.”

Lisa Peterson directs this (wild and woolly) outing that plays through Jan. 20. Some of the bits are new; others are oldies but goodies.

The first bit is an all-too-topical interview of a detainee at the Tijuana border by “ICE agents” who ask intrusive (and possibly tricky) questions, but finally reveal that they are actors making theater, not ICE agents trying to deport him.

There’s Mohammed (Montoya), who says “My kids worship Allah and Nike,” and a Southern Baptist preacher (Siguenza), who wonders “How did Jesus go from looking like Osama bin Laden to Brad Pitt?” There’s some drag action and a pair of “Marijuana Mamas.”

Suburban lesbians Carla and Polly fear gun-toting neighbor Morgan, and describe their Carmel Mountain Ranch neighborhood as “newly wed or nearly dead.”

And everybody’s favorite, the bit about salsa dancing and how it is done by various national groups.

It’s a wild and wacky ride, but always with a point. This time it’s best made by Oscar (from Uganda) and Paolo (from the Philippines), in a conversation about life in their adopted country.

“Do you think we will return home?” asks Oscar.

“We are home,” says Paolo.

Peterson keeps the show rolling, helped by a new approach to the look of the piece. Instead of shoving furniture and set pieces around, set designer Christopher Acebo and lighting and projection designer Tom Ontiveros collaborate to give the show a more polished look.

Costume designer Carolyn Mazuca contributes time-specific looks and composer/sound designer Paul James Prendergast keeps the place rocking.

It’s a short run. Don’t wait to get your tickets.

The details

“Culture Clash (Still) in America” plays through January 20, 2019 at South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday at 7:30 pm; Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm

Tickets: (714) 708-5555 or www.scr.org