Campo Santo, Cal Shakes do some Califas dreaming

Nov 04

EXTENDED THROUGH NOV. 23
Alleluia the Road
Sean San José is Isaac in the Campo Santo/California Shakespeare Theater production of Alleluia, the Road by Luis Alfaro. The play is one part of the elaborate Califas Festival at Intersection for the Arts. Photo courtesy of Intersection for the Arts

There’s something extraordinary happening at Intersection for the Arts, and only part of it has to do with theater. Intersection, along with Campo Santo and California Shakespeare Theater have been partners for years, but their current collaboration is kind of staggering.

It began back last April with a production of Richard Montoya’s The River directed by Campo Santo’s Sean San José (read my review here) and continued with Cal Shakes’ season opener, Montoya’s American Night: The Ballad of Juan José in June starring San José and directed by Jonathan Moscone (read my review here).

Now we have the culmination of the collaboration in the Califas Festival, a multimedia exploration of what it means to be a Californian. There are filmed documentaries on display in the galleries alongside photo documentations and some really staggering art, not to mention a floor covered with letters written by theatergoers from the previous plays and notes they wrote for proverbial bottles. When you go to see the play, which is sort of the centerpiece art, you are completely immersed in this astonishing exhibition. The play takes place in one of the two installation rooms, and there’s no central stage. The action takes place all over the room, with different parts of the exhibition providing the backdrop.

The play, Alleluia the Road by Luis Alfaro, is one more part of this California mosaic. Moscone directs and San José stars, and though critics have been asked not to review the show itself, potential audience members should know that this experience – the art and the play – cannot be missed. As with every Campo Santo production, you are guaranteed intelligence and emotion and powerful writing and incredible performances. If all you knew about this play was that it was written by Alfaro (whose Oedipus El Rey and Bruja have been so powerfully engaging at the Magic Theatre) and that it stars San José and Catherine Castellanos and Nora el Samahy and Brian Rivera and Donald E. Lacy Jr. among others, you would know that is something you need to see. If you care at all about Bay Area theater.

Come early for the show or make time to stay after, but engage with the exhibition (I highly recommend the 10-minute documentary Aquadettes by Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari). At a recent performance, it was heartening to see audience members writing letters and postcards during intermission to add to the exhibition. This isn’t one of those art things offering hollow jabber about interactivity. This really as interactive as you’d like it to be.

And just to be clear about Alleluia, the Road – this is not a performance piece in a gallery. It’s a full-on, two-act play (about two hours in length) that takes a figurative road trip through the Golden State. And when it comes right down to it, you can have all the art and photography and documentary films in the world to beguile viewers, but when the lights go down on a performance, what matters most is story, emotion, connection. That’s definitely the case here, but that level of engagement almost always happens when Campo Santo, Cal Shakes and Intersection engage in that thing we need so much more of in the Bay Area theater world: collaboration.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
The Califas Festival and Alleluia, the Road continues an extended run through Nov. 23 at Intersection for the Arts, 925 Mission St., San Francisco. Tickets for the play are $30. Visit www.theintersection.org.

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