Diario Judío México - Bad Hombres, Good Wives, a delightful new comedy at the San Diego Repertory Theater, is a cheeky take on Northern Mexico’s narco culture and the relationship between men and women. Written by Playwright in Residence Herbert Siguenza, the play explores the age old problems of relationships between men and women with a mix of The Importance of Being Ernest, Moliere’s School for Wives, a narco telenovela, and some “Guillermo” Shakespeare thrown in for good measure.
Don Ernesto is an old fashioned, very macho cartel king who lives in a lavish house in Sinaloa with pictures of himself showing off his barrel chest. He has been grooming a young woman named Eva with the nuns at a convent, so she will be his perfect, submissive wife. Or so he thinks. John Padilla, who plays Don Ernesto, is a real presence on stage as he struts around with bluster and exaggerated machismo. And the man can sing! Eva, played by Yvette Angulo making her debut at the REP, is a seemingly shy and sweet young woman who actually has a core of steel. She thinks she is marrying Don Ernesto’s secret alter ego, a smooth and erudite professor from the “UNAM”, a famous university, and this pleases her as books have been a big part of her cloistered life. Ms. Angulo is perfect in the part, all innocence and lightness.
On her way from the convent to Don Ernesto’s house in preparation of her upcoming wedding, Eva meets Don Mario, the son of Don Ernesto’s rival drug lord who recently died. Sparks fly. The son is coming home for his father’s funeral and wants to continue the peace agreement between the two men. Jose Balistrieri, also making his debut at the REP is perfect in the role as the athletic “prince charming” who woos Eva.
I was surprised at how physical the play was with actors bailing out of windows and “fighting” on stage. Salomon Maya and Daniel Ramos III play amusing and clueless henchmen who along with Balistrieri display their physical grace, not only fighting, but dancing, too! All the actors were very nimble!
Speaking of moves, the adorable Ric Salinas plays the fawning local priest or padre who yearns to “come out”, but is bound by the church and Mexican society. He busts out some great moves. As founders of the renowned comedy troupe “Culture Clash”, both he and Siguenza are old pros who own the stage.
Herbert Siguenza has a penchant for playing women and he does it well. He is Armida, Don Ernesto’s very smart maid who dryly observes what is going on. Siguenza moves around the stage showing off his moves [those hips!] and manipulating other’s lives while calmly smoking a cigarette. Armida helps to bring about the happy ending.
Finally, there is “Lucha Grande” played by the formidable actor and singer, Roxane Carrasco. She is a famous mariachi/ranchero singer whose persona is that of a fierce woman who refuses to be dominated by men. In the end though, love does prevail through a series of events, and Eva ends up with her beloved Mario while Lucha gets together with Don Ernesto.
The play is fun. I enjoyed the music which was written by composer Bostich of the famous Mexican ensemble, Nortec Collective. The two main songs though, El Rey and Volver, Volver, are older Mexican classics which made me very nostalgic.
Directed by Sam Woodhouse, this play proves once again how well he Herbert Siguenza work together.
Bad Hombres, Good Wives will be on stage at the Lyceum Theater until October 27th.