By Ernie McCray
This New Year, 2015, was already moving along nicely for me, but it shifted into high gear the other night when Maria and I went to see the San Diego RepertoryTheatre’s “Steal Heaven,” a play written by one of my favorite theater artists, Herbert Siguenza. This multitalented actor, playwright, director and producer is a founding member of Culture Clash, a performance group known for its rich satirical look at the world and its politics – from a Chicano perspective. I’ve loved everything they’ve ever done.
Siguenza’s “Steal Heaven,” was right in line with all his good work and it was just what I needed as I look forward to, hopefully, a long future of trying to change this world into a more civil home for human beings. I know, good luck with that, Charlie, but it’s what I wake up every morning to do.
This production charged my battery, taking me back to the 60’s, my favorite decade of all, my early adulthood (assuming that I’ve grown up).
I was hooked from the moment that Trish, portrayed so wonderfully by Summer Spiro, took the stage and gave the audience the first look at who she is, a veteran of the recent wars in the Middle-East, and an activist of the “Occupy” variety, trying to tame a world filled with political and social challenges, trying to adjust a determined status quo.
She questions and wonders and fights the system in the early moments and as it goes with too many who buck the system, she ends up at the Pearly Gates where Abbie Hoffmann, played by Siguenza, confronts her with the obligatory “Can I help you” kind of greeting and, as she has no app, so to speak, for automatic entry into Paradise, she has to be closely scrutinized.
Abbie, for review, was one of the most influential and recognizable activists of the late 60’s and early 70’s. He was a student of Marxism who co-founded the idea of Yippies, and ensconced himself in the fight for civil and human rights and protested the Vietnam War with the “Chicago Eight,” who included the likes of Tom Hayden, before he and Jane Fonda became a team, and Bobby Seale of the Black Panthers – and in this compelling and extremely funny drama he was the man between God and those who wanted to enter heaven. And he also could decide if someone was allowed to skip this transcendent place and go back to earth to make it a better place to be for humanity.
Trish wanted to go back. Badly. She had unfinished work to do. But Abbie Hoffmann wasn’t your average “St. Peter at the Gate.” He was like a DI at MCRD. Trish, you see, had to prove to a T that she was worthy of a trip back home instead of living in the clouds throughout eternity.
That’s where the fun began. Abbie calls on a number of characters, celebrities we know well (all played excellently by Mark Pinter), to see if Trish has what it takes to be an agent of change in a world that’s spinning more and more out of control with its…
Well, you who are reading this know what’s going on. And you know, perhaps, what’s needed to turn it around.
But does Trish? That’s the question. And there are belly laughs aplenty before the answer is revealed.
I was literally thrilled sitting in the audience at the Lyceum Space Theatre, doubled over with laughter, as these actors plied their trade. At the curtain call I felt that my thoughts about the world were validated, that in spite of the many positive changes that have come about over the years, the world is still too much like it used to be in some ways.
I drove home feeling to my bones the “keep on keeping on” spirit these brilliant actors brought to the stage.
To say the least, “Steal Heaven,” so splendidly directed by the gifted Todd Salovey and, the man, Herbert Siguenza, is a must see. It is truly a celebration of the spirit of revolution. It will be playing through January 25th.
Don’t be square. Get there.