by Tracy Shaffer
If you are interested in an evening of brilliant satire in the hot Latin mode, American Night: The Ballad of Juan Jose is just your ticket. Written by playwright Richard Montoya and developed by L.A.’s famed Latino/Chicano comedy group, Culture Clash, this ain’t your high school civics class!
The ballad begins with David DeSantos as Juan Jose, walking through the rugged Sonoran Desert with a song in his heart, a back-up band of mariachis, and a head full of American dreams. Fast forward to our hero the night before he takes his citizenship test, cramming the truths, the lies and the absurd realities that make up our American history in a hallucinogenic, satirical, spinning nightmare. A cast of nine actors play eighty roles that range from wildly comedic to high-octane outrageous. To call it irreverent would be reducing its heat to pico de gallo; this is hotter than a habanero. Nothing is sacred, no one is spared in this delicious, fast-paced, insightful and yes, heartwarming tale of two cultures, one country.
I took my son, a high school senior, with me to balance out his public school education and was glad I did. He’s no theatre slouch, but I’d hardly call him a raving fan. The fresh hysterics of American Night gave us a lot to talk and laugh about the whole way home. Get your tickets, grab some tapas at Vesta Dipping Grill, head to the Denver Center Theatre and hold on to your sombreros, friends. This is a “Night” you’ll never forget.