Do you feel like every twinge and tick is a sign of impending doom? Do you Wikipedia every little possible symptom, only to be convinced that you are going to die of an incredibly obscure disease? In a world where television commercials tell you about new health issues before your doctor, it seems only fair that now you hear about them from the theatre as well. MANIFEST DESTINITIS is the newest thing, and the San Diego Repertory Theatre is here to tell you all about it.
Alas, MANIFEST DESTNITIS, as defined by the San Diego Rep playwright-in residence Herbert Siguenza, is everywhere and it is the fear that no matter what you do, you cannot stop Manifest Destiny. This widespread belief that the United States was destined to expand from coast to coast and spread their “Anglo-Saxon” heritage is terrifying to those that currently live in the lands as they see the waves of them coming. Strangers coming and invading our land and culture in hopes of building a better life for themselves, how dare they! Can’t we build a wall or something?
This modification of Moliere’s THE IMAGINARY INVLAID, is fairly faithful but with a situation and location that has a distinctly Southern Californian flair. Don Aragon (the very funny Mark Pinter) is the wealthy landowner who is diagnosed with the terrible and fatal disease. As his doctor charges him increasingly exorbitant prices for his treatments, Don Aragon finds he only has a few days before this disease will kill him. Along with this disease comes a terrible side effect, he suffers from involuntary verbal eruptions of what the future will soon look like: Starbucks, mayonnaise, and pilates are just a few of the things that that he yells in horror.
Add to that his devoted daughter Angelica (Jennifer Paredes) has fallen in love with a white ,totally tubular, and really rad, simpleton surfer dude (a hilarious Jacob Caltrider). Infortunately, Aragon just announced her betrothal to the neighbors son Tomas ( the incredibly funny Salomon Maya) in and financially advantageous (and medically since the son is a doctor, no more medical bills!) match. His other daughter Luisa (also Paredes, who is delightful in both roles) is a determined lesbian who runs a feminist book club and refuses to wear skirts or to bend to cultural norms.
Aragon also has a manipulative wife (Roxane Carrasco) who likes to flamenco in between meeting her lover (John Padilla as a very funny lawyer) and plotting how to steal Aragon money (to be fair, flamenco is enjoyable in almost all situations). His house is really run by Tonia (Herbert Siguenza) one of the last of her Whatchamacalit Tribe, and from her Native American point of view, this newest wave is just another following the wave of the Spaniards, so this is the norm for her.
The rest of the zany characters are doctors, neighbors, lawyers, priests who look suspiciously like baseball team mascots, and a young pueblo boy (the excellent Scotty Atienza) who delivers the news (and seems to be the only one who realizes how important the news he is sharing is to everyone). With all this going on Don Aragon should probably find himself a doctor who can prescribe a Xanax.
With such a plethora of targets; healthcare, education, true love, lawyers, arranged marriages, cultural appropriation, this farce can’t help but be entertaining. It has a familiar cadence of making a point, a rebuttal, with some slap stick thrown in. This is a show combines its salient points with silliness, which keeps the tone and the pacing light and entertaining the entire way through.
All of this is complimented by a beautiful hacienda set by Sean Fanning, and lovely costumes by Jennifer Brawn Gittings.
Thought this is especially poignant in an election year, this play has enough local and current cultural humor that it doesn’t feel like it will get dated. Whether it is healthcare costs politics, love, or manipulative people, whatever is happening now has definitely happened before and will happen again.
If that gives you a cold shiver down your spine then I have some bad news for you, I checked the internet and you might be sick. But no worries, a trip to the theatre should help clear it up for you.
MANIFEST DESTINITIS is playing at the San Diego repertory Theatre through October 9th. For showtimes and ticket information go to www.sdrep.org