Take one part Shakespeare, 3 parts Molière, a soupçon of Oscar Wilde. Toss in a sprinkling of banda music, macha feminisma, narco-traficantes and telenovelas. And what do you get?
Herbert Siguenza’s latest concoction: a tasty new Spanglish treat: the world premiere, “Bad Hombres/Good Wives.”
As in “The School for Wives” (Molière), an older man has a young girl sequestered in a convent, groomed to be his innocent, subservient wife. As in “The Importance of Being Earnest” (Wilde), he has a different identity in the city and the country, using Wilde’s names (Ernesto for Ernest or earnestness) and Bunbury for the practice of deception.
The young woman, it turns out, despite being raised by nuns, is far more smart, savvy and sassy than anticipated. Left alone for a moment in the Sinaloa train station, she’s smitten, “Romeo and Juliet” style, by the romantic young son of the old geezer’s rival narco-capitán. The joven’s mother is a powerhouse, eye-patched banda singer. The young woman’s crafty chaperone is Siguenza in drag. The closeted gay priest is Siguenza’s early partner in crime, Culture Clash co-founder Ric Salinas.
The old man has two bumbling bodyguards (who also play Hamletian gravediggers and lamé-hotpants hotties).
And weaving through all the Mexican mayhem, in a stroke of wild musical imagination (and a score by Nortec Collective founder Bostich) is a facetious sousaphone player (Adrian Kuicho Rodriguez).
Sounds wacky, and sometimes silly, but there are plenty of well-earned laughs. And there’s lots of language: of the swearing, and the Spanish, variety (some translated, some not). But the comedy is broad, the storyline is crystal-clear, and the sly literary references add delicious heft.
This is one of Siguenza’s most successful comic creations for the San Diego Repertory Theatre. And Rep artistic director Sam Woodhouse helms the piece with a light, entertaining touch.
The cast is excellent all around—committed comic players, all.
John Padilla, as the humorously Bunburying paterfamilias, even gets to display his singing chops. As his rival’s widow, multi-talented Roxane Carrasco shows her chops, her gams, and her comic brio, too.
Salinas is funny, as always, in two roles, as are Salomón Maya and Daniel Ramos III, as the henchmen and the hotties.
As the cute, well-matched ingénues, adorable Yvette Angulo has a wonderfully malleable face, and Jose Balistrieri sports admirable physical agility.
Siguenza plays his quirky, bottom- and top-heavy character straight (as it were), instead of outrageously over-the-top, which makes Armida wiser and funnier.
The costumes (Carmen Amon) are a hoot, and the set (Sean Fanning) changes (seemingly) effortlessly for the various locales. The lighting (Chris Rynne), sound, (Matt Lescault-Wood), and projections (Samantha Rojales) add dimension. And George Yé’s fight choreography heightens the action.
Best of all, the macho-man gets his comeuppance, and the women win the day. Viva la mujer!
- The world premiere, “Bad Hombre/Good Wives,” runs through Oct. 27 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza in downtown San Diego
- Performances are Wednesday at 7 p.m., Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m., with matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.
- Tickets ($25-$72) are available at 619-544-1000 or sdrep.org
- Running time: 2 hrs. 15 min.
Pat Launer, a member of the American Theatre Critics Association, is a long-time San Diego arts writer and an Emmy Award-winning theater critic. An archive of her previews and reviews can be found at patlauner.com.