Doña has an ulterior motive behind all this consciousness-raising: She needs help fending off the imminent threat brought by land-snatching developers in league with the evil Gobernador, who naturally arrives by Humvee. (As the Latinos who voted against their own interests by helping to elect an action movie icon demonstrate, the superhero sword can cut both ways.)
Charming, sharp, and frequently wacky, the cutting jokes, quips, and allusions in Zorro come at a remarkable clip (a breathless 20 rpms, or references per minute, at least). All of it unfurls amid Christopher Acebo's colorful, kinetic, and multifaceted scenic design; some zesty swordplay choreographed by fight director Dave Maier; and appropriately dramatic on- and offstage musical accompaniment by guitarist Vincent Christopher Montoya as the swashbuckling movies of yesterday spill onto the stage, and the stage antics of Culture Clash and company, in turn, transform into cleverly refashioned celluloid dreams projected onto a massive movie screen.
And so, with rapier wit, Culture Clash leaves its own mark on the Zorro legend, proving the pun to be mightier than the sword and the myth capable of new, subversive energies in a reactionary age. It might be that its sprawling, garrulous nature fails, in the end, to lay the best ground for the play's final call to arms (at least the culminating "rise up!" segment feels a bit forced and tends to drag on), but no matter: Hundreds of thousands of Latinos and others are already in the streets of LA and other cities across the country. Zorro may or may not be a myth with real political traction, but either way, justice, as Zorro would be the first to tell you, is a do-it-yourself job.
CULTURE CLASH'S ZORRO IN HELL
Through April 16
Tues., Thurs.–Fri., 8 p.m.; Wed., 7 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m.
Berkeley Rep's Roda Theater
2015 Addison, Berk.
(510) 647-2949 or (888) 427-8849