Hagedorn, Greco Create Masterful Visual Palette
by Evelyn Arevalo
“The Gangster of Love” by Jessica Hagedorn transports us to the 70s, to follow the outlandish exploits of the newly arrived Filipino Rivera family in San Francisco.
Get ready to be amazed by a live action rock band, a psychedelic LSD trip, and a raucous birthday party. Director Loretta Greco gives us an intimate look into the Rivera family’s troubled assimilation into America. With them, we travel the familiar streets of the Castro, North Beach, and the Haight. We enjoy a 70s poetry workshop at City Lights Bookstore with the sparkling, multi-ethnic cast.
“Gangster” tackles mental health, drug addiction, and homelessness in San Francisco. Blunt scenes of cocaine-snorting, spiraling manic-depression, and colorful characters inhabit the City. And some of them become homeless, leaving us surprised and sympathetic.
Hagedorn’s three-hour epic at Magic Theatre keeps us on the edge of our seats. Her funny, heartbreaking tale, introduces inquisitive Rocky (enigmatic Golda Sargento), solemn Voltaire (bright- eyed Jed Parsario), and seductive Milagros (stunning Sarah Nina Hayon). Their comic chemistry sharply displays how dysfunctional families operate.
The diverse cast navigates English, Spanish, and Tagalog, enriching and contrasting the conflicts between the first and second generations immigrants. And Hagedorn uses powerful poetic language to addresses lingering U.S. colonialism.
A beautifully executed dinner scene features a virtuoso Sean San Jose as inimitable Uncle Marlon. With impeccable timing and flair, San Jose ’s Marlon suffers multiple telenovela plot twists. Under Greco’s astute direction, Act One ends with a breath-taking cliff-hanger.
Seamless spectacular set designs dazzle us, including a ship at sea, an inhospitable hospital, and a bizarre bank. Furniture pieces float in to create intimate spaces for a raw glimpse into the Riveras’ homes, hopes, and dreams. We resonate to their moments of joy, heartbreak, and recovery, as each actor listens and responds with palpable emotion.
Memorable moments abound: from a dreamscape interaction between a white-winged Jimi Hendrix in tight jeans, to Rocky’s meeting with writer Declan Wolf. Wolf reveals his collection of ten thousand books in Set Designer Hana S. Kim’s library of wonders.
Whether in the bedroom, or bookstore, or dream world, each setting plunges us into a fabulous fantasy world. Actors stretch our understanding as they move through cascades of spectacular scenes—all the while tugging the tense dramatic rope. Don’t miss “The Gangster of Love.”
“The Gangster of Love” by Jessica Hagedorn, directed by Loretta Greco, at Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco, through Sunday, May 6, 2018. Info: magictheatre.org
Cast: Golda Sargento, Jed Parsario, Sarah Nina Hayon, Lisa Hori-Garcia, Chuck Lacson, Lance Gardner, Lawrence Radecker, Dezi Soley, Patrick Alparone and Sean San Jose.