Culture Clash Back in San Diego for “American Night”

SanDiego

By Michael Klam
La Prensa San Diego

SAN DIEGO — For almost 30 years now, Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Sigüenza of Culture Clash have delivered on-stage history and civics lessons disguised as madcap anarchy.

Their particular brand of comedic social commentary has left audiences revolving from uproarious laughter to contemplation of pressing social problems.

The performance troupe draws its inspiration everywhere, from Shakespeare to Cantinflas, and everything is game for discussion: gender, race, politics, history.

Their unabashed approach is why Culture Clash will once again perform at La Jolla Playhouse. Culture Clash’s “American Night: The Ballad of Juan José” opens on Friday, Jan. 27. Montoya wrote and performs in the play and Jo Bonney directs.

“The Playhouse prides itself on being a safe haven for unsafe work,” said La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley, “and few artists are as daring and dangerous as Culture Clash.”

“Their unique, take-no-prisoners style of theatre provokes both laughter in the theater and passionate debate on the car ride home,” he said.

“American Night,” which originally ran to rave reviews at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, takes the audience on a voyage through American history while tripping through the mind of its title character Juan José, played by René Millán.

Studying for his U.S. citizenship exam, Juan José stresses out and swoons. A surreal journey from sea to shining sea ensues, through battles and plagues, into a Japanese internment camp and a music festival. Along the way he encounters the likes of Bob Dylan, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Fidel Castro.

“American Night is a hilarious journey through American history and an up-close look at a good man who desperately wants to be a part of this country,” Millán said about his character.

“This play does not have an agenda. It’s not trying to…

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