Regional Reviews: San Diego
Based on Molière's The School for Wives, but set in 1992 Mexico, the script features Don Ernesto (John Padilla), a local cartel lord in Sinaloa who thinks women are beneath him, and wants to marry the young and beautiful Eva (Yvette Angulo). In order to prepare Eva to be a proper wife, Don Ernesto sends her to a convent and poses as Ernesto Bunbury, a dignified professor. Getting in the way of his plans is Mario Grande Jr. (Jose Balistrieri), the kindhearted son of Don Ernesto's deceased rival. Mario and Eva fall in love, and the Don's bluntly honest maid Armida (Siguenza) quickly becomes their ally.
Siguenza's writing is hilarious, with a combination of jokes in both English and Spanish, raunchy gags, and criminal activity. There is also some intelligent humor, with references to the 21st century and allusions to William (or as he's called here, Guillermo) Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde. Some of Don Ernesto's intentionally misogynistic dialogue can get a little repetitive, but Siguenza comments on relationships in ways that are witty and don't get in the way of the one-liners.
Artistic Director Sam Woodhouse, Siguenza's frequent collaborator, is once again an ideal choice to stage his comical play. Woodhouse complements Siguenza's script through his successful staging of a good deal of slapstick and physical humor. He stages several funny scenes, including a Hamlet-influenced dream experienced by Mario (Chris Rynne's lighting pays homage to the classic tragedy) and fight choreographer George Ye's enjoyably over-the-top battle sequence between Mario and two threatening goons (Daniel Ramos III and Salomon Maya, who both play several characters).
Other contributions to the production that leave a big impression are Carmen Amon's costumes, which would feel right at home in a telenovela, and Sean Fanning's set depicting locations such as Don Ernesto's home and a train station. One surprising element is the important role of music in the story, as original music by composer Bostich and Spanish-language songs are used in Matt Lescault-Wood's audio. Performers Roxane Carrasco (as Lucha, Mario's banda singer mother) and Padilla get several chances to shine (their songs are often translated into English by projection designer Samantha Rojales), and Adrian Kuicho Rodriguez plays live music on a sousaphone.
Woodhouse gets some excellent comical performances from his cast. As two people who can't stand each other, Siguenza and Padilla spar and trade insults, and, with their comic delivery, show once again that they are pros. Keeping the plot somewhat grounded are Balistrieri and Angulo as Mario and Eva. They portray a silly, yet sweet, relationship. In addition, Carrasco, Ramos, Maya, and Ric Salinas are a lot of fun in the colorful roles they play.
Siguenza's trademark sense of humor is on full display in his terrific latest premiere on the Lyceum Stage, and provides a night that will leave the audience in stitches.
Bad Hombres/Good Wives runs through October 27, 2019, at San Diego Repertory Theatre, 79 Horton Plaza, San Diego CA. Tickets start at $25.00. For tickets and information, visit at www.sdrep.org or call 619-544-1000.