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Culture Clash uses humor to deliver social commentary

By Daily Bruin Staff

May 4, 2000 9:00 p.m.

By Judy Pak

Daily Bruin Contributor

In 1984, “a group of locos,” as Culture Clash
members call themselves, started out in a small neighborhood art
gallery, later to become one of the most popular culture comedy
groups in the nation.

A decade and a half later, “Culture Clash Anthology: A
15-Year Retrospective” had the audience roaring its approval
in a standing ovation as it wiped away tears that welled from the
bottom of its gut at end of the show.

The Los Angeles Theatre Center welcomes home a show of the
nation’s premier Chicano/Latino comedy trio to celebrate its
15th birthday. “Anthology” opened Saturday, April 29,
and is playing through May 21.

Since then, Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza
have created, written and performed numerous award-winning plays,
including “The Mission,” “A Bowl of
Beings,” “S.O.S.” and
“Bordertown.”

The collaboration of politics, poetry and satire is complemented
with a unique performance style, creating an evening of theatrical
enchantment. The clever staging, witty choreography and talented,
hard-working cast captivates the audience’s attention.

The show opens with a song lamenting the deficiency of
Chicanas/os in the media. This reflects and bemoans the short-lived
sketch comedy television show produced, written and performed by
Chicanos/Latinos, “Culture Clash: The TV Show.”

It is not uncommon these days to hear people complain about
so-called political correctness and Culture Clash plays off this.
The “Anthology” obligingly demonstrates that plays of
conscience ““ self righteous and didactic ““ are not
simply a modern-day fad.

In the first act the expert triad cast does its best to breathe
life into political and social events. Set in a time warp, they
bring back Christopher Columbus as the Godfather dressed in an
outlandish outfit. Both the bastard and legitimate sons of Columbus
amusingly sing of politically correct indignation.

Che Guevara is also resurrected in an extended routine to make
commentary on the present status of the Chicana/o movement. The
sketch critiques the decline and ambivalence of the Chicana/o
movement through a pot-smoking radical whose allegiance is pledged
as long as it does not interfere with the telecast of the 49ers
game and his Dominos pizza.

The second act concentrates more on the group’s latest
works, which offers an examination of various Latina/o communities.
The shrewd “Bordertown” features a married couple that
symbolizes San Diego and Tijuana, tapping into the issue of the
immigrant population. The other pieces are about a Haitian
immigrant and his Americanized child in “Radio Mambo,”
and a Miami man and his Cuban wife who run a demolition
business.

The performances conclude with Salinas’ demonstration of
the different salsa dancing styles of various cultures, and
Montoya’s poetic meditation on his younger years in San
Diego. Individually and collectively, the mature, skillful and
hilarious trio opens consciousness to serious issues in an attempt
to smudge the distinctive cultural borders that have become natural
in the mind-set of society.

Culture Clash and Sam Woodhouse both direct
“Anthology.” Woodhouse has previously directed an
alternate production of “Bordertown” with the Mark
Taper Forum at the Actor’s Gang last summer.

Other “Bordertown” originals include Jeff Rowling
and Chris Acebo, whose masterful lighting and ingenious costumes,
respectively, further amplify the show’s atmosphere and
project a surreal impression.

The Chicano/Latino experience is effectively and entertainingly
chronicled through the brilliance of poetry, music and dance, which
are often expressions created in response to repressive conditions.
“Anthology” is guaranteed to infect you with a case of
ceaseless laughter by the end of the evening while still getting
its point across loud and clear.

COMEDY: “Anthology” shows at the Los Angeles Theatre
Center through May 21. Tickets range from $20 – $27 with a $15
student rush available. For reservations or information call
213-972-7232.

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