‘American Night’ Preview

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Tom Chown

SRJC’s cast of the play “American Night.”

Graig Gettman, Staff Writer

In the mood for a good laugh? Make plans to see “American Night: The Ballad of Juan José.” Directed by Reed Martin of “The Reduced Shakespeare Company,” the comedy focuses on the hilarious yet insightful story of Juan José, a man who desperately wants to become an American citizen.

“Most of the play is his sort-of fever dream the night before his citizenship test,” said Martin, who calls the play both “funny” and “provocative.” During the course of the play, Juan José meets up with all sorts of historic figures, including Teddy Roosevelt and Sacajawea. “Some of the time he’s aware that he’s dreaming, and sometimes it seems realistic,” Martin said.

“American Night” premiered in 2010 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Written by Richard Montoya, the play focuses on Juan José, who escapes to America to avoid corruption in Mexico. He’s a police officer who refuses to take bribes, so he feels threatened and leaves the country. The play also touches on issues surrounding immigration, and the prejudices and difficulties faced by Mexicans living in America legally, but who aren’t citizens.

“They want to live here and work hard and contribute, but they’re not always made to feel so welcome,” Martin said. “[The play] speaks of the determination that these people show and the hard work. I admire their tenacity.”

The cast is relatively small, featuring 12 actors. However, Martin has cast these actors in multiple roles. It’s a “whirlwind of actors and characters all around him during this dream,” he said.

Martin said the show has been fun to work on. “One thing I love about the show is it talks a lot about parts of history that are often glossed over,” he said. “I think it makes points. Sometimes, a play can make points and you feel like you’re beaten over the head, and I think this is just the opposite.”

Martin, a playwright himself, plans to stay as true to the script as possible. “Most of what I need to know is right in the script,” he said. “I’m just trying to honor the playwright.”

The play opens March 6 at Burbank Auditorium and runs through March 14. Ticket prices start at $10.