Staged at the Potiker Theatre by Tony Taccone, the source of social and political merriment is "Culture Clash's Zorro in Hell," a world-premiere co-production of La Jolla Playhouse and Berkeley Repertory Theatre, where it played earlier this year. The local and topical references are so numerous that one suspects (and hopes) the script is changed daily. Though they are not incorporated yet, the show delights in events like Mark Foley's sexual indiscretion and Escondido's approval of an ordinance to make it punishable for landlords to rent to illegal immigrants.
It's ironic that the Escondido City Council vote was going on just as Culture Clash's Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, Herbert Siguenza and their marvelous supporting company lampooned and insulted each and every Southern California sacred cow, including El Gobernador.
Here's the set-up: An unsuccessful writer (Montoya) goes to the El Camino Real Inn to research a proposed book on the legendary Zorro. Among numerous historical, fictional and magical characters, he meets a lusty 200-year-old gringa with a startling resemblance to early film character actor Marjorie Main (Sharon Lockwood, absolutely terrific in this and other roles); Don Ringo, her factotum and "The First Chicano" (Siguenza); and a very hairy therapist named Kyle (Salinas).
The excellent Joseph Kamal and Vincent Christopher Montoya, also a guitarist, play additional characters. All are clad in Christal Weatherly's clever costumes. Christopher Acebo's scenic design allows the show's many scene changes to flow seamlessly, and lighting and video designer Alexander V. Nichols' work adds context and amusement. Kudos also to sound designer Robbin E. Broad and fight director David Maier. What is Zorro without swordplay?
The script itself is both brainy and of the people. A basic knowledge of California and Chicano history, literature and film stands theatergoers in good stead. "Zorro in Hell" is so ecumenical that it contains something to insult and amuse nearly everyone.
"Zorro in Hell" continues through Oct. 29 in the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive. Tickets are $34 to $58. Performances Tuesday through Sunday.
For information, visit www.lajollaplayhouse.com or call (858) 550-1010.