If site-based theater truly is the way to attract younger audiences to the medium and explode the constraints of a traditional stage, then bravo! Bravo, too, to San Diego Rep artist-in-residence Hebert Siguenza's dystopian adaptation of Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part One.
El Henry, as it's called, is a La Jolla Playhouse Without Walls series production, presented in association with the Rep. The latter's artistic director, Sam Woodhouse, directs the play, which unfolds at the outdoor SILO space at East Village's Makers Quarter, at 15th and F streets. Siguenza not only wrote this adventurous work, which mingles The Bard with Mad Max imagery and low-rider cars, but he also portrays a roly-poly Fausto, a wise-ass take on Shakespeare's beloved comic foil, Falstaff. In the roles of opposing barrio warrior princes are the sons of playwright Luis Valdez (Zoot Suit), Lakin and Kinan.
El Henry depicts a San Diego of the year 2045, when all whites have fled, water is like gold and the renamed Aztlan City is inhabited only by Chicanos, Mexicans and Hispanics. The ruling El Hank (John Padilla) is facing imprisonment amid a false charge and fears that his barrio kingdom will be usurped by rival El Tomas (Victor C. Contreras) and his blood-thirsty son El Bravo (Kinan Valdez). Hank's partying son El Henry (Lakin Valdez) wants none of the conflict, preferring to carouse with his drinking and thieving pals, which include Fausto. But an Act 2-opening summit with his father (one that's too conveniently resolved, frankly) turns El Henry around, setting the stage for a fierce street war that culminates with the warrior princes going mano-a-mano.
The El Henry story is only half as riveting as the setting and staging of the production. The audience, seated either in plastic chairs or on hard-on-the-butt bleachers, is immersed in an environment of piled-high crates, TV screens, a broken-down truck and worn fences. The "floor" is dirt. A young cast in warrior armor, masks and even Day of the Dead garb, lights up the SILO space with incredible energy. This is inspired theater that crosses borders and shatters barriers.
El Henry runs through June 29. $25. lajollaplayhouse.org
Border Lines : A free evening of readings of short plays by emerging playwrights about life along an international boundary. Presented by Playwrights Project and performed mostly in Spanish, it happens from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on July 1 at the Logan Heights Library.
Disenchanted: In this musical satire, fairytale females like Pocahontas, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, The Little Mermaid and Hua Mulan strike back at exploitation. Opens June 27 at OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. onstageplayhouse.org
Off the Cuff : It's improvisational theater, so anything can happen. One night only: June 28 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Romeo and Juliet : A boy + a girl + a priest + two warring families = tragedy. Opens June 27 at the Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
The Brothers Lipschitz : Two brothers—one a historian, one a marriage counselor—invite a couple of strange women over to dinner, and things go down. Presented by Different Stages, it runs through June 28 at Swedenborg Hall in University Heights. differentstages.biz
Monty Python's Spamalot : The legend of King Arthur is absolutely hilarious in the stage adaptation of the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail . "Run Away!" Through June 28 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
13 Rue de l'Amour : This French farce takes on infidelity in the late 19th century. Through June 29 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat : In a musical based on a biblical tale, a guy who has an amazing coat is sold into slavery by his 11 jealous brothers but rises to power in Egypt nonetheless. Presented by Broadway San Diego, it runs through June 29 at the Civic Theatre, Downtown. broadwaysd.com
Milvotchkee, Visconsin : Billed as "a comedy about a tragedy," it's about a woman who works as a park docent in Wisconsin and is suffering from dementia. Presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through June 29 at the 10th Avenue Arts Center in East Village. moolelo.net
The Miss Firecracker Contest : A 24-year-old Mississippi woman seeks to shed her reputation for promiscuity by entering and , hopefully, winning the titular competition. Through June 29 at New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad. newvillagearts.org
The Sunshine Boys : CBS asks a retired Vaudeville duo—who split after a year's worth of not speaking to each other off the stage—to reunite for a TV special. Through June 29 at Scripps Ranch Theatre. scrippsranchtheatre.org
Twelfth Night : In Shakespeare's romantic comedy, much love is professed and identities are mistaken after a shipwreck on the Adriatic coast. Through June 29 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
Walter Cronkite is Dead : Two women who are polar opposites are forced into one another's company during a long delay at an airport. Yep, they end up learning a lot about each other. Through June 29 at the Broadway Theatre in Vista. broadwayvista.com
Dog and Pony : In this world-premiere musical comedy, things get complicated for a team of screenwriters when one gets a divorce and the other realizes she wants something more than a professional partnership. Through July 6 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
My Son the Waiter, a Jewish Tragedy! : A one-man show written and performed by Brad Zimmerman, who went to New York to try to make it as an actor and then waited tables for nearly 30 years. Through July 6 at the Lyceum Theatre at Horton Plaza, Downtown.
Othello : A bitter soldier, Iago, schemes against his general, Othello, and, as usually happens in a Shakespearean tragedy, lots of people die. Through July 27 at The Old Globe Theatre. oldglobe.org
Crime Pays : A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net