Saturday, September 19, 2009

Culture Clash and Aristophanes, an Irreverent Mix

Peace. Culture Clash. The Getty Villa. 9/18/09.

In Peace at the Getty Villa, some of the greats of Southern California theater come together to create a ridiculous romp through ancient comedy and contemporary commentary. The show features Culture Clash, the irreverent Chicano/Latino sketch comedy-meets-performance art-meets-teatro theater troupe with their brilliant combination of site-specific localism and global commentary wrapped up in dick jokes. In this production, they are joined by the equally fabulous John Fleck (of Star Trek: Enterprise and the NEA 4, and a delightful local gay actor/performance artist) and Amy Hill (most recognizable as Margaret Cho's grandmother on All American Girl, and incredibly multi-talented in her own right). This amazing cast is brought together by Bill Rauch, who recently left us bereft here in SoCal to become the Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is joined by the mad genius Ken Roht as choreographer and playwright and dramaturg John Glore as co-adapter of the play. And then, of course, there's Aristophanes, who is perhaps a perfect match for Culture Clash in the combination of fast-paced absurd romp, incredibly current social and political criticism, and dirty jokes.

Peace is a strange play, but its wackiness can be wonderful. The puppetry and costumes are fabulous and the actors themselves are hilarious, high-spirited professionals that make the show a delight. There are moments when the show doesn't work. Some of the jokes fall flat or go on too long and some of the choices don't make a lot of sense, but overall this contemporary-meets-classic story of a hippy pot farmer (Fleck as Trygaeus, aka Ty-Dye), a cranky Malibu housewife meets showtune-singing chorus leader (Hill), and three Guatemalan gardeners/Salvedoreño sh*t-slaves/Greek Gods (Culture Clash, of course) who set out to save the goddess Peace who has been imprisoned by War makes for a delightfully fun evening of theatrical magic. The political message (essentially 'make love, not war') is in no way heavy-handed or clichéd, and despite being thousands of years old, the play feels like a fresh and contemporary take on an old theme. Personally, I was shocked and delighted by the heavy-handed phallus humor and particularly John Fleck's fabulous tribute song to masturbation that became a chorus "dance" number. Overall, I highly recommend this show to anyone who can see it (an who can handle the adult content). I was absolutely gleeful throughout.