From the Los Angeles Times
FORGET "The Real Housewives of Orange County." When the theatrical trio Culture Clash researched the O.C. for its documentary-style show, "Culture Clash in AmeriCCa," moms in McMansions were the last things on its minds. Instead the group talked to Vietnamese car gangs, Mexican day laborers, the owners of a swingers club and even the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim's Rally Monkey.
For years, the group has been taking "AmeriCCa" across the country, creating a compilation of scenes and monologues inspired by interviews in cities along the way. For its stop in Orange County, 20% of the show is new material with a fresh, local flavor.
"It's so gosh darn pleasant [in Orange County], it's almost like there's Muzak playing all the time on those endless boulevards," says Richard Montoya, one of the group's three members. "You wouldn't think there are problems."
The show's new material, says fellow group member Herbert Siguenza, is "trying to poke holes in the pristine image of Orange County."
For example, Culture Clash met with a middle-aged couple who run a 3,000-member, couples-only swingers club in a warehouse in an industrial area of the city of Orange. "There's an S&M room, there's an orgy room" all with velour-coated walls, says Siguenza. "It was just like a regular club, but people do it," he adds. "They were really nonchalant about it."
So how does their research translate into theater? At the time of this interview, a week and a half before performances began, they were still working it out, though they had decided that a Mexican day laborer character would appear in multiple scenes to tie the show together.
"Through the labor of these people, that's what makes Orange County shiny and clean," says Siguenza. "But this person is also vilified in this county."
In one scene, the group plans to portray former Orange County Sheriff Michael S. Carona by using transcripts of actual conversations now being used in his corruption case.
And as for the swingers scene, "We just finished writing it today," Siguenza says. "Who knows how it'll end up on stage?"
The bulk of the show consists of the group's greatest hits from other areas, including a Cuban American multimillionaire furniture store owner from Miami; a Muslim taxi driver from Washington, D.C.; a lesbian couple from San Diego; and a victim of a priest's sexual abuse in Boston.
These characters, says Ric Salinas, the third member, are all "people on the fringes, the underdogs," who highlight "the diversity that we have in our own backyard." He adds, "What we show in this play is we really don't take advantage of that. We really don't talk to our neighbors."
'Culture Clash in AmeriCCa'
WHERE: South Coast Repertory, Julianne Argyros Stage, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa
WHEN: Opens 7:45 p.m. Fri., runs 7:45 p.m. Tue. through Fri., 2 and 7:45 p.m. Sat.-Sun., ends April 6.
INFO: (714) 708-5555; www.scr.org