By JEAN LOWERISON | Uptown News
What do you get when you cross Molière and Shakespeare with a few “contemporary” topics like women’s rights and who is “allowed” to do what, and toss the whole wild salad with a Latinx perspective?
You get “Bad Hombres/Good Wives,” the latest play by San Diego Repertory Theatre’s playwright-in-residence Herbert Sigüenza, in its world premiere through Oct. 27 on the Rep’s Lyceum Stage.
The basic question at issue is whether contemporary women should (or even can) be forced into “School for Wives”-type roles as compliant wives, subservient to their husbands.
La Lucha Grande (Roxane Carrasco), resplendent in near full-domme regalia (black, tight leather-looking gear) and black eye patch, is a banda singer and opens the show with a song. When somebody brings her a note onstage, she immediately announces that her husband has just died and she must attend his funeral.
Then she thinks better of it: “I never loved the son-of-a-bitch anyway. Let’s finish the pinche show.”
Is anti-machismo revolt in the air? I’ll bet you can guess.
The players include Don Ernesto (John Padilla), the macho head of a powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, and in the market for a compliant wife. The Don announces out of the blue to hard-of-hearing housekeeper Armida (Sigüenza in hilarious drag) that he is marrying the girl of his choice this very Sunday — Eva (Yvette Angulo), an orphan the Don found and placed in a nearby convent for this very reason. Now she is 16, and he figures she has been taught to obey orders without question.
Does he ever have a surprise coming.
At the Culiacan bus station (where Armida is sent to pick up the girl), Eva is spotted by handsome Mario Grande, Jr. (Jose Balistrieri), son of recently expired rival cartel leader Mario Grande. Mario Junior is on the way to the old man’s funeral. But once he meets Eva, his future plans are set — and they don’t include Eva marrying Don Ernesto.
Miss Eva may have been convent-raised, but she is a voracious reader and has adopted some ideas that Don Ernesto isn’t counting on. And she thinks Junior is pretty cute.
Sigüenza, one of the founders of Chicago’s satire troupe Culture Clash, tapped co-founder Ricardo Salinas to play the somewhat other-than-expected Padre Alberto, who provides some giggles in the confessional.
Mario, Jr., Eva, Don Ernesto and La Lucha will all end up in Sinaloa for the funeral, along with Eva, Armida and two of the Don’s young hitmen: Leo (Daniel Ramos III) and Tito (Salomón Maya). There will be lots of sneaking around, stolen kisses, spying on and general verbal and physical mayhem (much of it in Spanish, sometimes with supertitles) before this “narconovela” ends.
You’ll also hear “Romeo and Juliet” and “Hamlet” references and hear music by composer Bostich, played by Adrian Kulcho Rodriguez on solo tuba. That’s something you don’t see every day.
Sigüenza is a force in Latinx comedy, and it’s always great to see him and his friends onstage. This show is a tad too scattershot for my taste. Maybe I’m too old, but keeping up with all the nuttiness got to be a bit of a chore after a while.
But I like the point: the men are no match for the women of Sinaloa.
— Jean Lowerison is a long-standing member of the San Diego Theatre Critics Circle and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.