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Herbert Sigüenza’s ‘Bad Hombres/Good Wives’ Premiers At San Diego REP

New play mixes Molière, Shakespeare, and a narco telenovela

Credit: San Diego Repertory Theatre

Above: "Bad Hombres/Good Wives" is a loose adaptation of Molière's "The School for Wives" but with a little narco telenovela thrown in.

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The comedy is a loose adaptation of "The School for Wives" by 17th century French playwright Molière, about a man who sends his love interest to a convent to be trained to be his loyal, submissive wife. Sigüenza describes his new play as "Molière in Sinaloa."

Aired: October 2, 2019 | Transcript

What do you get when you mix "The Importance of Being Earnest," "The School for Wives," a narco telenovela and lots of banda songs to sing along to? "Bad Hombres/Good Wives" at San Diego REP. It opens Oct. 3.

"Bad Hombres/Good Wives" is a new production at the San Diego Repertory Theatre by playwright-in-residence Herbert Sigüenza.

Listen to this story by Beth Accomando.

The comedy is a loose adaptation of "The School for Wives" by French 17th century playwright Molière, about a man who sends his love interest to a convent to be trained to be his loyal, submissive wife. Sigüenza describes his new play as "Molière in Sinaloa."

"The themes of the play are many but it basically it's about exploring the myth of machismo because it is a myth," Sigüenza said. "It's something that's in our culture that's acted upon. And we're now living in the era of #metoo and so I wanted to write something that addressed machismo in a new way because it's an old narrative, it's an old way of being for a man to be in society. So we wanted to explore those themes in this play and just put machismo on hold and on display to see how ridiculous it is and how dangerous it is, it really is."

Sam Woodhouse is directing the play.

"What happens when the traditional, macho, Mexican man runs into the young girl that he thought was his pawn and being raised to be the perfect subservient wife?" Woodhouse posed. "And then, she turns out to be a feminist raised in a nunnery."

To add to the fun, Sigüenza plays a female character.

"Well if you know my work that's probably not a big surprise," Sigüenza said. "I thought playing a woman in this particular play was important because I'm a man playing a dignified woman, a traditional woman, an older woman, and it's just interesting that I, as a man, I'm making commentary about machismo and about feminism and marriage but I'm a man. So I think it's just ironic and I love it."

Sigüenza described this as his least political comedy and prefers to call it a sex farce.

"It's unapologetically funny and I think that's what we need right now," Sigüenza said. "I don't really want to write a play about kids in cages. We see that on the news every day and I don't have any commentary on that, my commentary is outrage of course. But you don't want to go to the theater to hear that so right now I think we need to laugh, we need to show our culture and how beautiful we are and I think that's to me is political."

But comedy gets people laughing and that's when they can open up.

"They are much more open to an idea, to a thought, to a message when they're laughing," Woodhouse said. "People are more open to being influenced by a point of view. When you're laughing you surrender to the moment and then the moment can be expressed from the stage as we wish."

The play features Sigüenza's colleague, Ric Salinas, from the Chicano theatre troupe, Culture Clash, along with original music by Tijuana's Nortec Collective founder Bostich.

"Bad Hombres/Good Wives" opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 27 on the Lyceum Stage.

Sigüenza and artistic director Sam Woodhouse discuss the new comedy with KPBS Arts and Culture reporter Beth Accomando Wednesday on Midday Edition.

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