AMERICAN NIGHT: THE BALLAD OF JUAN JOSE -- A Look at Our History
By Bob and Karen Isaacs
BOB: Richard Montoya has taken his cue from Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” and Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz” to tell the story of a Mexican immigrant trying to become an American citizen.
KAREN: The play, American Night: the Ballad of Juan Jose, tells the story of the dreams Juan Jose (played by Rene Millan) has the night before taking his citizenship exam. In the dream Juan Jose meets and interacts with a wide variety of historical figures, from Lewis & Clark, to Teddy Roosevelt, to union leader Harry Bridges, to today’s anti-immigrant politicians.
BOB: This technique permits playwright Montoya to introduce many themes and figures that make up the American culture.
KAREN: I especially liked the opening of the piece, which shows Juan Jose walking to America while singing.
BOB: Much of the success of this production is due to the fine direction of Shana Cooper who allows these personages and themes to emerge.
KAREN: This piece was developed by Montoya and the theater group with which he is associated, Culture Clash and Jo Bonney. Millan, who plays Juan Jose, has been with the project for some time.
BOB: There is more humor and pathos in this piece which features music and dance. You see Juan Jose’s longing for his wife and son that he left behind in Mexico, his commitment to the American dream as well as the somewhat humorous interactions with the historical figures.
KAREN: I was sad that towards the end, Juan Jose begins to doubt both the American dream and his citizenship desires as he experiences some of the darker sides of our political history.
BOB: The cast plays multiple characters and Montoya himself plays Juan Jose’s father and grandfather.
KAREN: As the program notes state: “Montoya hopes the immigrant will see that the legal path to citizenship is well worth his time -- and that all Americans will find it worth our encouragement.”
BOB: American Night is a rewarding theatrical experience and certainly is worth your time. It is at the Yale Rep through Oct. 13.
This review aired on WNHU, 88.7fm and www.wnhu. net