When Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote Peace in 421 B.C., a truce in the Peloponnesian War had just been declared, and the twenty-something satirist seized the opportunity to pen an anti-war ode celebrating the silencing of wartime brutality. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan rage, the commitment to social justice via dramatic ribbing that made the name of Aristophanes legendary is being resurrected by three Chicanos who have built a career on the art of poking fun.
As Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza – a theatrical trio better know by their collective moniker, Culture Clash – took the stage at the Getty Villa Thursday night for the opening of their very own version of Peace, they morphed into day laborers, crazy neighbors and over-sexed politicians, all in the pursuit of uncovering the folly of humankind’s addiction to war.
The play is ninety minutes of outrageous fun, unfolding via a brand of bawdy comedy that is par for the course with this 25-year-old troupe of crude comedians. No one is spared a good dose of ridicule here, from the wealthiest housewives in Malibu to the ghetto dwelling down-and-outers in East Los Angeles. Ethnic humor abounds and the sensibility throughout is unmistakably Latino. Exaggerated pronunciation (“cheep” for “sheep”) and numerous sight gags (all the dudes wear balloon-crafted phalluses) create lowbrow humor juxtaposed with the high art of social commentary. In addition to the three core players, Amy Hill, as the bath-robed Greek chorus leader, and John Fleck, as the heroic buffoon Trygaeus, both show up with side-splitting performances. Hill brings a hilarious sense of entitled bossiness to her cougar of a character, while Fleck’s funniest moments come in bursts of haplessness.
But at the end of the day, there is a sense of hope and genuine goodness under all that satire. We get to see the embodiment of peace near play’s end, and for one poignant moment the world seems to have been set right.
Las Colibri, a trio of deft Latina performers, provides on-stage music throughout the show, and Bill Rauch directs with all the goofy glee the play requires.
The Getty Villa, with all of its sophistication and aesthetic pomp, is an ironic backdrop for this silly romp, but its outdoor Greek amphitheatre is exactly right for an Aristophanes play.
This isn’t Culture Clash’s first collaboration with the museum or the playwright – in 2007, the presented an updated version of The Birds at the Getty Villa’s indoor theatre. Those who missed them the first time around should get over to the Malibu museum for this one. Keep the kids at home for this anything-goes affair.
Through October 3. Call 310.440.7300.