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LA Theater Review


Here's the challenge: Perform this piece in a community vociferously insistent that war is the answer and that homosexuals should not marry. Then let's see if your pot-smoking, tie-dye-wearing peacenik protagonist automatically gets hero status.

Culture Clash (with John Glore) and director Bill Rauch have adapted the Aristophanes play, recrafting it to shape and sharpen it, but leaving in the crudeness and shock factors that probably helped sell its point in other times. Fart jokes, free and full use of the f-bomb, and bestiality aren't making a particularly potent point on the border of Pacific Palisades and Malibu.

Culture Clash (Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, Herbert Siguenza) returns to its low-brow form after the trio's startling, meaningful foray into drama with 2006's "Water and Power." The jokes here are old—not classics but recalling now-obscure references to the likes of "Fantasy Island." But all the actors work themselves to the hilt, their intensity completely contagious.

Montoya swiftly warms up the crowd in his preshow announcements, delivered in traditional Mexican attire—except for the Dodger foam finger—and traditional accent. Salinas and Siguenza portray Greek slaves who belong to the peace-loving farmer, played with flop-sweat commitment by John Fleck. Montoya returns as the farmer's Michael Jackson-esque son. Soon Montoya is mimicking a self-absorbed host on Santa Monica's KCRW radio, while Salinas plays Mr. Stophanes in the interview. Siguenza becomes Hermes, the messenger god and god of fashion. The trio becomes Marx brothers. Amy Hill plays a resident living near the Getty Villa who stops by to complain about the show's noise (another site-specific long-running gag) and becomes ensnared in the production as the Chorus Leader (and its only member but serving more as female comic relief than as commentator).

Shigeru Yaji's costumes are superb storytellers in themselves. War is a huge-headed, legless wonder—part Nazi, part Roman soldier. The slaves wear tunics and high-tops. Most memorably, Fleck rides to Olympus in a giant dung beetle with working headlights—presumably powered by the audible methane emissions.

Many people put a lot of thought and care into this production. It's time to test drive it on bumpier roads.

Presented by and at the Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater at the Getty Villa, L.A. Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m. Sept. 10-Oct. 3. (310) 440-7300.

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