Wild and crazy guys for 30 years and counting, the members of Culture Clash take dead aim at the country's fractured immigration policies in "Sapo" at the Getty Villa.
Very loosely based on Aristophanes' "The Frogs," the show is a fanciful mélange that is almost indescribable — hyper, nutty, bawdy, savagely hilarious and also wrenching.
The show opens to the live music of the infectiously buoyant L.A. band Buyepongo. Recent footage of wildfire along the 405 Freeway flashes on the rear wall, courtesy of Yee Eun Nam's witty projection design, which is incorporated into the action to wickedly subversive effect. Those images are just one indication of how topical this adaptation of ancient Greek theater will be.
Culture Clash members Richard Montoya and Ric Salinas display the comic mania that has characterized their performance collective since its founding. (Culture Clash's Herbert Siguenza does not appear in this show.) Under the direction of Sean San José, the rest of the cast matches them in madcap energy, rattling off one-liners with machine-gun accuracy while somehow maintaining an improvisational rhythm to the show.
The action commences, simply enough, as a Latino father (Montoya) camps on the beach with his little girl (precociously effective Maryjane Santamaria, alternating in the role with Elise Rodriguez). The scene segues to Dionysus (John Fleck), a gender-fluid god, and his indispensable "cholo slave," Xavier (Salinas), who must consult with Hercules (Seth Milwood) before embarking into hell in search of a powerful poet who can dethrone the present U.S. president.
From there, we travel back to the 1970s, where drug-addled music manager Ceasar (Montoya, again), strewing a blizzard of cocaine in his wake, is trying to score a record deal for his band, Sapo. Those guys (played by Buyepongo) just might get a better deal if they sign with God.
The free-wheeling text, credited to Culture Clash, never misses an opportunity to tweak the noses of the present administration, so those who might resent having their sacred cows burnt in effigy would be well advised to give this show a wide berth. And the final scene of the show — spoiler alert — brings the present immigration debate into poignant human focus, stopping the laughter in your throat as tears rise. It's a devastating denouement that gives this seemingly silly show an unforgettable punch.
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Where: Getty Villa, 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades
When: 8 p.m. Fridays, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays; ends Feb. 18
Information: (310) 440-7300, www.getty.edu
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
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