Twelfth Night, with a twist
Aliens With Extraordinary Skills
Sacramento, CA 95814
This comedy involves undocumented arrivals from Russia and Latin America, and the show ventures into topics like immigration and assimilation that the B Street Theatre hasn’t explored often of late. The plot developments—including reluctance to report a crime due to fear of arrest and deportation—can get serious. But this show remains very much a comedy, albeit one with several dramatic, topical underpinnings. And the play has more in common with classic comedies of the past than many folks may realize.
We meet young Nadia (actress Stephanie Altholz), a Moldovan/Russian blonde earning a very modest living as a clown. She and Russian sidekick Borat (John Lamb) arrive in New York City, seeking under-the-counter employment and a place to live, while they figure out how to get a green card. Adventures ensue as Nadia rents a room from Lupita (Rinabeth Apostol), a savvy, pretty Latina working in a nightclub as a pole dancer, and then Bob (Brian Rife), a laconic unemployed musician from the South, the proverbial loser-with-a-heart-of-gold.
Intervening to make sure stability and contentment are kept at bay are Immigration and Naturalization Service agents (Katie Rose Kruger and Stephen Rowland), presented in comic terms à la Laurel and Hardy. But they ultimately mean business in terms of enforcing immigration law.
Director Buck Busfield sustains a festive, funny mood but doesn’t minimize the fear and difficult choices faced by recent immigrants. Costumer Paulette Sand-Gilbert and composer Noah Agruss enhance the absurd elements, and while the setting and characters are decidedly contemporary, playwright Saviana Stanescu draws structure from classic Shakespearean comedy.
To wit: A plucky, appealing girl washes up on the shores of a strange, wonderful land and reinvents herself. There are clowns speaking giddy nonsense that is nonetheless mysteriously logical and meaningful. Unlikely love blossoms between mutually surprised individuals from different cultures, and in the final scene, a wedding dress. It’s almost Twelfth Night, with a few new twists.