KPFA theatre critic Richard Wolinsky reviews “Culture Clash (Still) in America” at Berkeley Rep through April 5, 2020.
Text of review:
No words quite exist that define the performance troupe Culture Clash. On one hand, the trio are masters of sketch comedy; they’re also masters of political satire; and of cultural commentary; and of improve stand-up. All three members, Herbert Siguenza, Richard Montoya and Ric Salinas, also have worked over the past three decades as actors, and as writers.
From their origins in the Mission District in San Francisco, they bring a culturally sensitive and street-smart attitude with an underpinning of what we now call Latinx culture, to an examination of American society that, as it turns out, hasn’t changed all that much in thirty years.
That is hasn’t changed is evident in their new collection of sketches, Culture Clash, Still in America, based on their 2002 work, Culture Clash in AmeriCCa – which can be seen at Berkeley Rep’s Peets Theatre through April 5th, directed by Lisa Peterson.
Still in America opens as ICE agents interrogate a captured Latinx illegal immigrant, a sketch which soon expands into a tour that starts with a right-wing couple in Florida, and expands to include various ethnicities and gender identities. Most of the sketches are comedic, some rely on improv with the audience – and one in particular is a serious case-study of a harried and overwrought attorney for separated families and the problems he faces as he argues his cases and tries to bring children back to their parents. In the middle of an often uproarious collection of vignettes, it’s utterly harrowing.
The best, and funniest bit occurs about an hour into the show, as two older female sixties activists chatter about their lives in Berkeley today, slicing and dicing and name-dropping everything from the Berkeley Bowl to the Cheeseboard, to, you guessed it, KPFA. It’s fall to the floor hysterical – but you have to listen quickly, or half of it will pass you by before you notice. A second trip might be required.
While there’s certainly room for ad lib funkiness and improv, Still in America is a highly polished piece of theatre, under the tight direction of Lisa Peterson. While all three performers are sensational, Herbert Siguenza is particularly brilliant, especially in the transsexual and Berkeley biddies scenes. Though maybe that’s unfair to the other two, who also shine in their different roles.
And the political points are both funny and trenchant. It all makes for a solid, thoughtful, entertaining and often extraordinary night of theatre, not to be missed, especially if you’re someone listening to this very review on KPFA, right now.
Culture Clash Still In America, directed by Lisa Peterson, is performed at Berkeley Rep’s Peets theatre through April 5th. For more information you can go to berkeleyrep.org. I’m Richard Wolinsky on Bay Area theatre for KPFA.