Culture Clash - Segerstrom Center - January 31, 2014
The high point of the play blends new and familiar. A photo montage of Jose Montoya, Richard's father, who passed away last year, is shown. underscored by a recording of him performing his poem, "Layover in Mazatlan." The elder Montoya was a legendary Chicano artist and activist, and his poem is followed by his son asking an older poet to read him a poem. Siguenza delivers a powerful mediation on life, death and heaven (where, surprisingly, it's not very white; it's actually very much like the Earth we all live on) written by Vietnam veteran Richard Talavera, pulled from an earlier CC show. One can only imagine the feelings in the younger Montoya's heart as he stands on stage and participates in such a stirring, eloquent requiem to his father.
The throughline of the show may point to the different paths the three members of CC have walked the past few years. It begins with an incredibly graceful and talented dancer, Claudia Gomez, solo on stage, with the three Fedora-clad culture clashers, looking like 1940s gangsters, walking on stage. Montoya explains this is his muse and he's going out on his own. Siguenza stalks off in a rage, while Salinas, alone on stage, pleads with his departed members to remember what they do best: the telling of stories they accumulate by being on the road. That's returned to twice during the play, with Siguenza now "owning" the muse and focusing on his painting, and then Salinas tearing it up with the dancer, now claiming her as her own.
But they reunite at the end, in the office of a high-powered Hollywood executive while they make an unsuccessful pitch about the latest Culture Clash endeavor.
Whether there will be a spate of new Culture Clash offerings in the future, or whether these guys, who have been together now for 30 years, will only work together sporadically, if even that, is up to them. What we do know is that anyone who had the pleasure of seeing them this weekend experienced three fiery, passionate, funny and incredibly committed master storytellers doing what they do so well.