After finding great success bringing Dave Eggers' novel You Shall Know Our Velocity to the stage (Sacrament, 2004), the Mission's Campo Santo is tackling Junot Díaz' Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It's a wildly ambitious task given that the novel covers three generations of a Dominican family emigrating to New Jersey, a good dose of Dominican history, a family curse (fukú), and overflows with references to '80s nerd pop culture. Much like the book, the first section of this adaptation, which introduces the overweight "ghetto nerd" Oscar (Brian Rivera), is a bit overwhelming in style and language. The English and Spanish dialogue is rapid-fire, with actors jumping around and shouting over each other. By the second section — when Oscar's punky sister, Lola (Vanessa Cota), and his mother (Maria Candelaria) and grandmother (Anna Maria Luera) are introduced — character and plot ground themselves and the audience can better appreciate Díaz' acrobatic language. The cast is rock solid; the highlight is Carlos Aguirre, who not only skillfully plays multiple roles but also beatboxes a live soundtrack over this whirling dervish of a play. This production is funny, energetic, and in-your-face; the exact qualities that make the book so original and wondrous.
Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: May 14. Continues through June 21, 2009