St. Elseward’s

Ed and ErvI suppose Ed Begley Jr. has gotten used to the fact that, despite having hundreds of roles to his credit, every introduction presents him as “best known for his work on St. Elsewhere …” For a working actor, there are far worse things, especially when you could be known as “that guy from Transylvania 6-5000.

Ed is also known as a “Hollywood Liberal” [said with pre-requisite caustic drawl], or “Eco-Imperialist” if you prefer the newspeak hackery at Fox News. You won’t see him denouncing Chinese oppression in a smart Armani tux at the Oscars, as that rarified level of caring is reserved for stars who have been fellated (cinematically or otherwise) by Julia Roberts. Ed is a comparatively blue collar activist, puttering around in an electric car on his way to various labor and social justice causes.

In memory of Cesar Chavez, for whom he was a pallbearer, Ed brought his activism to the stage by writing “Cesar and Ruben.” The play tells the intertwining stories of the famed migrant worker advocate and Ruben Salazar, an LA Times reporter whose savage death mirrored the protests he covered throughout the 60’s. The two characters meet in limbo and recount their lives in order to move on in the afterlife. Hackneyed premise or clever plot device? Answer: yes.

The story skirts between biography and tribute in order to (re)introduce audiences to Chavez’ legacy. LA-import Danny Bolero skillfully takes Chavez from desperation to triumph and back again, while Austinite Mical Trejo uses his keen comic timing to elevate Salazar beyond the confines of a mere foil for another’s story. The play had a few detractions for me, mostly attributable to my involuntary need to vomit upon hearing Sting’s “Fields of Gold.” In other respects, the production was enjoyable and chunk-free.

“Cesar and Ruben” runs through this weekend, October 9th, at St. Edward’s cozy Mary Moody Theater, where there are no bad seats, only bad patrons. Call 448.8484 for tix and info.

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