Something special is happening at Pasadena Playhouse right now not to be missed; The “Bad Hombres” of Culture Clash have unleashed Bordertown Now, a bold, crackling, whip-smart examination of real lives at the Mexican-American border in 2018.
The iconic political satirists Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Sigüenza create a funny, shocking and surprisingly moving piece based on interviews conducted with real people they met on both sides of the border.
The show takes us to the brutal, unforgiving Arizona desert on the American side of “the wall”, where we follow two playwrights as they set about doing interviews with everyone from vigilante border protectors, to politicians, volunteers, border crossers, and even Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his “man cave”.
They don’t shy away from well, anything. The satire delivers the hard truths in a way that is disarming and you find yourself actually learning some history and seeing these issues, these people, with fresh eyes and new understanding. Characters seemingly broadly drawn become more and more human; edges soften, black and white becomes gray.
Among several roles, Herbert Sigüenza plays the vigilante border protector who elicits hearty laughter at the outset, but who, through several personal reveals, becomes all too close to someone we know. Sigüenza hits all the right notes of bravado and pathos while bringing a very funny, subtle authenticity to an African American newspaper man.
Ric Salinas is hilarious as the Salvadorian immigrant, an Arizona sheriff deputy and one of the playwrights trying to keep things cool with the vigilante. Richard Montoya really tears the roof off with his unflinching portrayal of Sheriff Arpaio, which is entirely based on a real interview conducted with the sheriff complete with Arpaio showing off a bizarre collection of prized possessions. It’s an uncomfortable and genius portrayal that walks a perfect line of parody and authenticity that begs to be seen.
A welcome addition to the mix is Sabina Zúñiga Varela playing all the female roles, most impactful of which is the role of a young mother held at the border and separated from her son. Varela’s performance is raw and tough and ultimately rips your heart out.
The direction by Diane Rodriguez is taut and keeps you guessing throughout the 90 minutes. The scenes transition seamlessly but Rodriguez knows when to stop the movement in a way that delivers an emotional punch. The design team of Efren Delgadillo, Jr, Lap Chi Chu, Jenny Foldenauer, Adam Phalen, and Yee Eun Nam do an absolutely phenomenal job of setting the stark, imposing scene with Nam’s projections playing a key role.
Regardless of any political affiliation, Bordertown Now is not to be shied away from. It is a deep dive into the emotions, opinions, beliefs, prejudices and humanity that lie in all of us; a worthy exploration if one is brave enough to go.
Bordertown Now is playing at Pasadena Playhouse, 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena
Wednesday May 30 to Sunday June 24, 2018. Wednesday – Friday evenings at 8:00 p.m.,Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. PasadenaPlayhouse.org (626) 356-7529
Pasadena Playhouse is hosting community style town hall conversations after every performance.