Wednesday, October 5, 2016

“Manifest Destinitis”: Herbert Siquenza’s latest in his series of culture clashes.

“Manifest Destinitis”… Sounds like an illness… oops it is. And it’s something Herbert (Culture Clash) Siguenza might have cooked up. Wait! He did! It’s his latest fore into the clashes of cultures now being politicized and billed as a takeoff on of Moliere’s “The Imaginary Invalid”. It’s showing on in the Lyceum Space through Oct. 9th.

Some might remember that “The Imaginary Invalid” was also part of the Rep’s Season many years ago and played on this very same stage. Seguenza’s play is based on Moliere’s 17th century comedy.

Cast of Manifest Destinitis
The names and places have been tweaked somewhat to fit the politics of the 1800’s and now, not to protect the innocent, but to out the perpetrators. Think the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and DJT’s rant on Mexican rapists being sent into THIS country.

Don Aragon can’t actually see the takeover of his territory from his front porch, but in a dream sequence, Aragon is asleep in his favorite rocker with the book “Don Quixote la Mancha” on his chest.  In his dream/nightmare a California State Park Ranger, (Salomon Maya) approaches him while is listening to ‘Hotel California’.

The Ranger informs him that he is not allowed to sit in that particular rocking chair because its ‘a precious antique that ‘The Daughters of the Golden West are preserving’. That unnerves him a bit and naturally he will need something from the apothecary to calm him down.

Aragon (a convincing Mark Pinter) is the Master of a huge cattle ranch. (Sean Fanning designed the large hacienda with all the necessary trappings). He sees himself sick all the time and is the consummate hypochondriac. To ease his financial burden he arranges a marriage for his daughter Angelica to his friend Don Pedro Dias’ (John Padilla) son, the doctor, Tomas (Salomon Maya). Tomas is  a sniveling wet behind the ears man /boy and a complete Papa's boy.

Angelica has other plans and is repulsed by Tomas.  She is in love with musician Charlie Sutter (Jacob Caltrider) a character right out of California’s history playbook. Little would they know that his father is the Sutter who discovered the Sutter Mines. Charlie is a guitar-strumming dude who will one day inherit his father’s fortune. Not so fast argues Aragon who will try to force her to marry his pal’s son.

Herbert Siguenza as Tonia
Tonia (Siguenza) is Aragon’s take no prisoner Indian Maid who steps in to play interference between Charlie and Angelica and Tomas. For that matter, she’s just a meddler and a damn good one to boot.  Siguenza, a larger than life character is also at the center of most of the best lines in the play with his mocking of current events in the Theatre of the Absurd in these upcoming elections.

Adding to the fun of the comings and goings of the Aragon family shtick (Richard P. Trujillo) is the Don’s personal physician. Aragon thinks he may have Manifest Destinitis. The doctor has no problem in diagnosing anything the master thinks his disorder might be… flatulence, limp arm, eye flutters, gingivitis, vaginitis, colonitis. Aragon is just thankful that Burgos “keeps him six feet above ground not six feet under”.

His second wife Bella De Aragon (a fiery Roxane Carrasco) is just waiting for him to croak so she can have his fortune. He’s blindly in love with her but she’s not so inclined so she brings in her own gringo lawyer (Robert Mayo) to write out the will and have a little ‘horizontal refreshment’ behind Aragon’s back in his own house. Keep your eye on the bouncing ball.

Roxane Carrasco, Mark Pinter and Herbert Siguenza
His other daughter Luisa is a lesbian. Aragon can’t seem to figure that one out so he just throws his hands up in resignation. Jennifer Paredes plays both sisters and is a marvel in the fast change category as she changes from feminine gowns to buckskin pants and top. (Jennifer Brawn Gittings).

‘Culture Clash’ founded by Siguenza, Richard Montoya and Ric Salinas has been around since the early ‘80’s. Siguenza has been performing and acting at the San Diego Rep., off and on, from about that time until the present educating San Diego audiences with new works, particularly in dealing with the diversification of our community.

That job in “Manifest Destinitis” is left to Pueblo Boy (Scotty Atienza) running up and down the isles holding up newspapers shouting out “Attencion! Attencion!” He’s a fantastic little actor, an associate artist at Lambs Players and was Gavroche in their production of “Les Miz”.

Scotty Atienza and Mark Pinter (Siguenza hidden in background)
Siguenza will be working with the Rep. through 2019 as part of the National Playwright Residency Program. He has also had “Steal Heaven” and “A Weekend with Picasso” among his most recent favorites. He and the Rep’s artistic director Sam Woodhouse have been working side by side for years. Woodhouse, his mentor, directed “Manifest Destinitis”.

The play now in a world premiere production will need a few cuts here and there. For the most part though it is politically accurate and satirically ready for prime time. While much of the production is over the top including Siguenza, the exaggeration isn’t lost on audiences that are pretty savvy about world affairs and local in this political climate.

It is a climate that is hanging like a heavy cloud over the country, particularly the accusations made by certain politicians. Now their words and slurs are coming back to bite them in their  ‘Manifest’ Destinitisis’.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Oct. 9th
Organization: San Diego Repertory Theatre
Phone: 619-544-1000
Production Type: Comedy
Where: Horton Plaza, Downtown San Diego, CA 92101
Ticket Prices: $35.000-$62.00
Venue: Lyceum Space

Photo: Daren Scott

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