Is Utopia for the Birds? Musical Satire "Los Pajaros" at HSU

Two “free-range homeboys” create a contemporary utopia – and it’s for the birds.

Los Pajaros (The Birds) is a musical satire from ancient Greece adapted by the Chicano American troupe Culture Clash, and further updated in the HSU production directed by Dell’Arte’s Michael Fields, which features a professional six piece band playing salsa, blues, gospel, and rock and roll.

The show runs for two weekends in the Van Duzer Theatre, beginning Thursday, Feb. 5.

“It’s about two Latino guys who are legitimately searching for a better life,” Fields said, “but they end up re-creating the same kind of world they set out to escape.”

In the original production of “The Birds,” playwright Aristophanes satirized his fellow Athenians. Culture Clash kept much of the story (including Greek gods and the society of birds) for their 1998 adaptation, but relocated it to the American Dream as seen from a contemporary Latino perspective. Fields and his largely bilingual HSU cast updated jokes and references for today’s audiences.

Geo Alva and Ivan Gamboa play Foxx and Gatto, who are searching for a man the gods transformed into a bird (played by Jesse Chavez) along with his wife, now a nightclub nightingale (Ambar Cuevas).

The two men convince the birds to build their own utopian city in the air, between the gods above and humans below. By controlling the borders, they can become masters of the universe–with Foxx as their increasingly outrageous leader.

They revel in their success until it attracts troublesome visitors such as Richard Nixon, a real estate agent, John Lennon, various political activists, the IRS, and Mother Teresa.

Though they set out to be as free as birds, Foxx and Gato become mired in contemporary complications as well as their own weaknesses. “It’s the vacuous quest for utopia,” Fields said. “The idea that if only we had this or that, then everything would be perfect.”

The HSU production of this script is the first anywhere not performed by Culture Clash. Most of the cast members play multiple roles and perform as a chorus. They include Ina Loaisa, Christopher Moreno, Camille Borrowdale, Gino Bloomberg, Veronica Brookes, Elio Robles, Mark Teeter, and Madison McCormack.

Heidi Voleker is scenic designer, Ian McBride lighting designer, and Marissa Menezes costume designer. Original music was composed for the Culture Clash show by Michael Roth.

“The music is really great, and there’s lots of it,” Fields said. “Thanks to an HSU diversity grant we’ve got a live band of professional musicians, led by Tim Randles. The cast does a lot of singing that keeps the story moving.”

“Structurally it’s a farce, but it has a lot of flat-out satire, which Culture Clash designed to be very topical and intentionally provocative,” Fields said. “Some people are probably going to be offended, but the satire and the stereotypes are spread out evenly. Everybody is a target.”

Los Pajaros is performed in the Van Duzer Theatre at HSU on Thursdays through Saturdays, Feb. 5-7 and 12-14 at 7:30 p.m., with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Feb. 14. Tickets are $10 general/$8 students and seniors, with a limited number of free tickets for HSU students at each performance, and are available from the HSU Ticket Offfice (826-3928) or at the door. For more information, visit