Sunday, October 29, 2023

Word For Word: "Citizen" ★ ★ ★


Greg Sarris's "Citizen" is a Feel Good show. We get a hero, who is a good guy, along with several bad guys. The good guy wins and the bad guys lose. The ensemble cast is excellent, and from an acting standpoint the show does what it is supposed to do: it makes us feel better about the plight of immigrants. 

"Citizen" is a strange call for Word For Word. At 90 minutes with no intermission, and almost all the dialogue and action emanating from one character, the story hinges on the audience pulling for Salvador, a U.S. citizen who was taken to Mexico as a child and is only now returning. His journey is a difficult one, mirroring the difficulties faced by so many millions of immigrants before and after him. But, being already a legal citizen, his future is rosier than for all the others.

Christian Jiménez plays Salvador. This is an arduous role, because he is narrator as well as principal actor. The actor must act while the narrator narrates. It takes a very accomplished actor to pull this off. Salvador, who does not speak the language and is at the mercy of some seriously seedy friends, is not always able to erase the blur between actor and writer/narrator.

We liked Ixtlán, who plays Salvador's real brother Ernesto as well as Marco, the boy who starts out mentoring Salvador but has a darker purpose. Their housemate Eldine, played by El Duarte, alternates between the good mom and the bad apple. She and Marco are partners in crime, though we come to understand the pressures they too are living with. 

A Word For Word show is always worth seeing, filled with the kinds of physical and vocal choreographies you see nowhere else. For us, "Citizen" plays a little long but is well worth seeing.


The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division gives "Citizen" Three Stars (★★★). We loved the way they rode the bus (seen above) and many other production touches, such as the sprawling grape vines indicated by actors' linked arms. If there is a problem, it is with the writing, not the acting. As always with Word For Word productions, excellent Direction (Gendell Hing-Hernández) and Lighting (Brittany Mellerson) help us follow the action easily.


Z Space Downstairs

450 Florida St., San Francisco

Wed.-Sun., through Nov. 12, 2023


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