Monday, November 28, 2016

"Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country" ☼ ☼ BANG


Richard Montoya's new play "Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country" gives us humor, melancholy and sadness, coupled around the rantings of Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona. Arpaio is the nationally-known advocate of severe justice for every illegal immigrant he can get his hands on.

Joe Arpaio is played brilliantly by Montoya, who starts off answering questions by a reporter (Sean San José) about the questionable murder of a Mexican teenager, shot to death on the Mexican side of the wall, though the shots were fired from the American side, through the border fence.

Arpaio takes off on every question and runs it into his own delusional world. We don't know if Joe Arpaio is really like Richard Montoya portrays him in this show, but even if he isn't we would pay money to see this guy right here. Montoya struts, he shows off to his acolyte assistants, he threatens and all the while manages to stay under control and sound almost reasonable.

San José's character, the reporter, not so much. He is kind of a priest, but closer to a street person. He has heart, but little personality, so he has no chance of standing up to Arpaio. Think Trump and Jeb Bush.

The action takes place inside Arpaio's office in Nogales, but this could be any border town. We are given no sense of place, although Nogales appears to have been selected by -- whom? -- as a town into which to funnel illegals, and thereby capture them more easily. There are so many difficult questions to be considered here. Some more detailed discussion would be very helpful.

There are side stories presented which give us excellent performances by Eliana López, Laura Espino and Carla Pantoja, but their purpose to the central issue, which is what is going on with Joe Arpaio, is unclear so far.

We love Tanya Orellana's Scenic Design and Juan Amador's Sound Design. Amador is onstage as well and he looks good in a cowboy hat.


"Nogales" is new and has wrinkles to work out. Right now The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards the show Two Stars with a BANGLE of PRAISE for Montoya's performance as Joe Arpaio. There is excellent acting and a promise of some understanding of an impossible situation. But we are still looking for a story. If we are going to spend so much time with the sheriff, we would like to know more about him than that he is one vato loco.

"Nogales: Storytellers in Cartel Country" 
The Magic Theatre
Fort Mason, Building D, San Francisco
Through October 30