Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Zorro Is Alive and Wacky
At the Berkeley Repertory

Also see Richard's reviews of The Golden Apple and Gypsy

Joseph Kamal
Berkeley Repertory Theatre is presenting the wacky Culture Clash's Zorro in Hell at the Roda Theatre through April 16th. The madcap comedy that uses every uproarious shtick in the business is a co-production of the La Jolla Playhouse and ZPI and directed by Tony Taccone. Culture Clash is now in its twenty-second year as theatre artists, writers and activists and all round troublemakers. This Latino group has played in every major regional house over many years. They are a superb performance group with a strong sense of political satire, social commentary, stand up comedy and performance art. Culture Clash's Zorro In Hell looks like one of the old Paramount Marx Brothers movies when everything was crazy on the screen.

Culture Clash's Zorro In Hell is about that old California hero who has been highlighted in many Hollywood productions, going back to the silent screen days of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. The whole premise of this off-the-wall production is that failed sitcom writer Richard Montoya has received a grant to write a play about Zorro. He finds a strange hotel in the middle of nowhere called the El Camino run by an odd landlady played by Sharon Lockwood. She states that all of the great writers of the 19th and 20th century, from Oscar Wilde to Jack Kerouac and including the original Zorro writer Johnston McCulley, have stayed at this run down hotel - and she bedded every one of them. She is an expert on the California hero and ready for Zorro to return to battle greedy developers, bigots, homophobes and a governor with a heavy Austrian accent.

The writer believes that Zorro is just a myth and that the landlady must prove him wrong by presenting "movies" of the great hero. There are one liners, physical shtick, weird persons like a gay cowboy who likes to kiss pretty men, and a talking bear (hilariously played by Ric Salinas) from the California state flag who might be homosexual. There is the aging bell boy Don Ringo played uproariously by Herbert Siguenza who keeps repeating "I am the first Chicano" in a faux Mexican voice like Alfonso Bedoya in Treasure of Sierra Madre. There is even the sleepy Mexican with the big hat that was seen in the Zorro films. The bandit poet Joaquin Murrieta makes an entrance in the second act to cite the injustices made to his people in the past. There are so many verbal, sight and sound gags in the two hour presentation (with intermission) that it is hard to describe. It's the wildest ride you are likely to take. There are references to many celebrities in political and entertainment fields. Many movies such as The Matrix , the Tyrone Power film Zorro, and Brokeback Mountain get farcical treatments. The Disney film series gets spoofed when an angel looking like Zorro dressed all in white with white wings descends from the rafters to a young boy playing Zorro who is accidentally killed by another boy playing a cowboy. The angel says he is the Guy Williams Zorro.

Sharon Lockwood plays her role with great gusto and is hilarious as the only female in the group. Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza are uproarious playing various roles. Joseph Kamal is appealing as he joins the group in several scenes. Musician Vincent Christopher Montoya plays a powerful guitar every time Zorro's name is mention.

Christopher Acebo has designed a superb set that is straight out of those early Zorro films. Robbin E. Broad's sound design is right on the mark with howling coyotes. Christal Weatherly's costumes are elaborate, and there are terrific projections by Alexander V. Nichols that add much to the antics of this group.

Culture Clash's Zorro In Hell plays through April 16 at the Berkeley Rep's Roda Theatre, 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets please call 510-647-2949 or visit

Berkeley Rep's next production is Rita Moreno in Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie opening on April 6th and playing through May 31 on the Trust Stage.

Photo: Kevin Berne

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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