Last weekend to catch Helltown Buffet

OC Register calls playwright, Aurelio Locsin, "a skilled writer of perception, wit and imagination" in a play that "recalls Philippine history and his own Filipino heritage with warmth and fondness"
OC Weekly agrees that Helltown Buffet is "a heap of fascinating Filipino traditions" whose author and director "gets big props for being extremely original with most of his content; the play is certainly never boring. (He) is most successful when it comes to his witty, poignant one-liners."

KUCI says "The first act of Helltown Buffet is as campy as they come…a tale of demons and blood and epicurism. In Act Two, however, the play becomes beautiful…. spiced with Filipino culture."

See for yourself what the critics already know!

Helltown Buffet is in its last weekend From Oct. 16-18 at Rude Guerrilla Theater, 202 N. Broadway, Santa Ana. Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8:00 pm. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and an inexpensive $10 for students with an ID. CALL FOR RESERVATIONS at (714) 547-4688 or you may not get in. PLEASE NOTE: This production is for mature audiences and is not for children.

Can a Filipino-American manager of Hometown Buffet and his hunky demon seducer fall in love through their real and imagined histories? This dark comedy propels them from Orange County to several afterlives, prompting encounters with a sexy demoness, a fabulous stylist, bewildered tribesmen, and talking trees.

For more info on the play, click HELLTOWN BUFFET in the left column.

"Helltown Buffet" video

Here's the publicity video for "Helltown Buffet," courtesy of David Beatty, the videogarpher for Rude Guerrilla Theater.

Helltown Buffet Back On Track!

After some amazing clean-up by cast, crew, and an outside repair company, Helltown Buffet is back to its regular performances.

With fewer performances left, you'll need to make your reservations now if you want to catch the show. The production runs thru Saturday, October 18 at 202 N. Broadway, in Santa Ana. Show times are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm., with Sunday matinees @ 2:30 p.m. beginning September 28th. And one Thursday performance on Oct. 16 @ 8:00 pm. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and an inexpensive $10 for students with an ID.

Fire and Flood cancels Helltown Buffet Performances

Last Friday, September 26, the building in which Rude Guerrilla Theater is located suffered a late-night fire and sprinkler-system activation that flooded the lobby and "Helltown Buffet" set. This forced the cancellation of Helltown Buffet performances for that weekend.

We hope to resume performances soon.

Rude Guerrilla's co-Artistic Director, Dave Barton, gives details about the fire in his two blog entries, used here with permission. (I've added parenthetical remarks to describe the people.)



The phone is ringing at 6:00 am and the first thing I think as I'm startled awake is that someone has died. Fortunately, that's not the case.

Seems instead that there was a fire upstairs in the Empire Building where we rent our space. Sprinklers went off, flooded the second floor, which then poured through any available cracks in the flooring, down to our ceiling, creating an inch tall pond where Rude Guerrilla's stage and lobby used to be.

Firemen look on our website because there's no posted emergency number on our front door, fire alarms have gone off and water is flooding out the front door onto the pavement outside.

They see on the website that David Beatty (company member) is teaching an acting class, so they call him, wake him up and then think they haven't actually reached him, turn off their phone (they think) and put the phone in their pocket.

So the phone's still on, David's saying "Hello? Hello? Can anyone hear me?" as he hears fire engine alarms, hears someone shouting, "Get the ax! Smash in the door!" and he's thinking ""Oh, God...Rude Guerrilla's burning down!"

And as he shouts into the phone and hears the splintering of wood and the shattering of glass, he jumps in his car and calls Jay (co-Artistic Director) and then Jay calls me.

I show up fifteen minutes later.

Water is everywhere...the theater smells wet and it feels like summer in Miami: sticky and fetid.
The "Helltown Buffet" set is water-damaged and the bottoms of the curtains soaked, but only a handful of seats are wet, amazingly enough. It look so bad that I can only imagine what would have happened if the sprinklers inside our area of the building had gone off.

As I enter, in the darkness, a bright floor light stands amid the water, David is talking to a fireman and every mop, trash can and garbage pail is full of a brown, brackish liquid as burly guys in yellow pants sweep away the water.

The lighting grid is dripping and I rush to flip off the electricity that's still being sent to the light boxes before we get a spark and the lights short-out and explode.

I call our insurance broker twice (no answer), call the building's management office (closed), call their emergency number (answering machine) and call ServePro, whose job it is to come into water and fire-damaged areas and clean up. They're the only ones that actually answer and tell me someone will be there within the hour.

I call Jay back and fill him in. I call Dawn (Maintenance Manager) asking advice on how to repair the busted door. I call Aurelio and we laugh and decide that "Helltown" is now officially cursed. ServePro tells me that we're shut down for the next 2 to 5 days because of the damage and necessary repairs. Jay calls Sharyn (director and company member) and tells her that "Our Town" rehearsals will need to be somewhere else for the next few days.

Vicki (Treasurer) moves our planned Board meeting on Sunday to her apartment.

It's now 12:30 and I've been here for six hours...I'm exhausted as hell and have no idea what will happen next.


Typing Sunday morning as the Servpro guys are punching holes in the dry wall to see if it's still wet.
Still wet, despite high force fans and dryers--as well as our heating system--on for the past 24 hours.
I'm waiting for the final verdict, but so far the answer seems to be yep, it's still wet.

I could tell that even before they got here...the reek alone as I walked in the back door told me that things were damp enough for there to be a mold concern.

And, as the building management told me yesterday, "We have insurance, so do what you have to."
So what I thought was going to take a half hour--with plans to then go to my last Board meeting for two months--means three hours and no Board meeting.

Instead...a MySpace blog!

Everything is currently being moved to the center--offices emptied, seats removed, platforms turned on their sides and it's looking like the bottom couple inches of each piece of drywall is going to be cut out and removed...

As someone who commented on the previous blog least no one got injured (a good thing), the building has insurance (another good thing) and it doesn't involve our insurance so far (another good thing).

Let the mess begin.

Helltown Buffet review by KUCI's Keith Dillon

Review from Keith Dillon's broadcast at KUCI

Helltown Buffet, September 12th through October 18th, 2008.
A production of Rude Guerrilla Theatre, 202 N. Broadway in Santa Ana, Ca.
For tickets and information, call 714-547-4688 or log on to

Halloween is here again. You can tell that by the plays being offered at the local theatres right now. Take, for example, Aurelio Locsin’s Helltown Buffet, currently running at the Rude Guerrilla Theatre in Santa Ana. Helltown Buffet is a tale involving a bitched-out succubus and her cruel-hearted demon assistant, an inept wannabe whose tendency towards romantic entanglements keeps him one horn short of full demonhood, a flamboyant coiffeur who cares not where he goes after death as long as he can dress people’s hair and an unassuming young Filipino-American boy who opens the local Hometown Buffet to murder in the name of love.

The first act of Helltown Buffet is as campy as they come. Long time Rude Guerrilla company member Aurelio Locsin gives us a first act that is a silly tale of demons and blood and epicurism. Much of it feels fairly routine, although the bit about making a buffet out of Hometown Buffet patrons is fascinating.

In Act Two, however, the play becomes beautiful. Mr. Locsin’s second act is spiced with Filipino culture. Upon his death, the play’s protagonist, Benjie, is sent to the Filipino sector of Purgatory. Mr. Locsin’s purgatory is racially segregated as it turns out. Act Two introduces traditional dances punctuated by jokes about life in America as a Filipino and funny little object lessons about the history of the Filipines. Benjie is brought back to the history that bore him. Even if he wanted to, Benjie simply cannot escape that history. His history, in fact, saves Benjie from his demon lover Paco who after all is still a demon, despite the sincerity of his affection.

Don’t kid yourself; Helltown Buffet at its roots is nothing more than Halloween camp. There is nothing profound about this play. Even as camp, it’s still a little too broad, a little too underdeveloped. The introduction of Benjie’s cultural history into the second act, however, makes it worth the ticket. I might add that on the night I came, several folks in the audience seemed to enjoy themselves throughout; all I can do is write my reactions. Anyway, the production is directed by Mr. Locsin himself; it is light-hearted and fleet of foot.

Especially notable among the cast is Alexander Price as the Etienne the hairdresser. Mr. Price plays his over-the-top hairdresser with enough wit and joy to keep his audience near tears throughout his entire performance. His explanation of the gates of purgatory is uproarious. Trina Estanislao’s Spirit is so disorientingly clueless that just about every line she speaks is a laugh line. Ms. Estanislao also dances her simple cultural dances with authority and affection. Ashley Jo Navarro is appropriately air-headed as Cloud. As Madame Loveless, Maggie Zamora is just a little too nice; Maggie, think Vanessa Williams from Ugly Betty. Rick Kopps, on the other hand, plays her assistant Grom with moustache-twirling joy. David Tran is cute as Benjie, whereas Brian Chayane Salero seems out of place as Paco Johnson.

The production is fleet of foot, requiring few sets. With the exception of a curtain running upstage of the action, the sets are walk-on units like palm trees, desks and such. The decorative items deliberately look like something from a nightmare Junior Prom. The sets are uncredited. Ryan Joyner’s lights are occasionally funny, especially at places like the gates of purgatory. Sarah Boros’ costumes are an interesting blend of Hometown Buffet uniforms, leather and traditional Filipino wear. The dances are choreographed with great care by Lee Samuel Tanng and the fights Jami McCoy are well done. Camp is the taste on Halloween. Helltown Buffet is very much to that taste, but author Aurelio Locsin has both the courage and the foresight to lace his show with his own traditions. Those traditions make Act Two a thing of authentic charm.

Press Release for Helltown Buffet

For immediate release!

Rude Guerrilla presents the World Premiere of HELLTOWN BUFFET September 19! Rude Guerrilla Theater Company is pleased to announce the World Premiere of playwright Aurelio Locsin’s black comedy HELLTOWN BUFFET as the ninth production in its eleventh season. Can a Hometown Buffet manager and his hunky demon seducer fall in love through their real and imagined histories? This dark comedy propels them from Orange County to several afterlives, prompting encounters with a sexy demoness, a fabulous stylist, bewildered tribesmen, and talking trees. The production is directed by the playwright. PLEASE NOTE: This production is for mature audiences and is not for children.

The production opens Friday, September 19, 2008 and runs thru Saturday, October 18 for 14 performances at 202 N. Broadway, in Santa Ana. Show times are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm., with Sunday matinees @ 2:30 p.m. beginning September 28th. And one Thursday performance on Oct. 16 @ 8:00 pm. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for seniors and an inexpensive $10 for students with an ID. Opening champagne gala is $25.

“Hometown Buffet” is one of my favorite places to eat, even without the 99-cent coupon,” says playwright/director Locsin. “During one of these food orgies, I noticed how a huge number of larger-than-normal people left uneaten food on their plate, which the servers promptly threw away. I thought, wouldn’t it have been better to give all that food to hungry and homeless people? When I asked the employees, it turns out it was against health department regulations.

Those images put together produced the opening buffet scene in one inspired sitting. That scene remained a stand-alone short without dialog until I took it to the playwriting class of East-West Players in Los Angeles, where playwright/instructor Prince Gomolvilas advised his students to write the first scene of the play and then continue with the ending of the play before filling in the remaining scenes.That unusual technique produced the script for this production.

People who specialize in such things will find all kinds of symbolism, social commentary, and educational messages in HELLTOWN BUFFET, but my main goal was to create something fun and entertaining for the audience. If anything more than that comes out, it’s a happy accident.”

The cast of nine includes RGTC members Alexander Price (last seen in CHAIR) and R.J. Romero (last seen in CLOWNZILLA). Returning is Frank Aranda (last seen in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS), Trina Estanislao (last seen in MAN OF LA MANCHA), Adam J. Ferry (last seen in THE SEVEN DEADLY SINS), and Rick Kopps (last seen in NOCTURNE). Making their debut on the Rude Guerrilla stage is Ashley Jo Navarro, Brian Chayane Salero, David Tran and Maggie Zamora.

HELLTOWN BUFFET’s choreography is by Assistant Director Lee Samuel Tanng, Costumes are by Sarah Boros, Lighting Design is by Ryan Joyner, Sound and Projection Design by Aurelio Locsin, and Stage Manager is Brenda Kenworthy.

If you'd like to arrange an interview with the cast or director, or want more information, reservations or complimentary press passes, please call 714-547-4688, send us an email at or visit Rude Guerrilla’s website at

Announcing the cast and crew of Helltown Buffet

Helltown Buffet
by Aurelio Locsin

Can a Hometown Buffet manager and his hunky demon seducer fall in love through real and imagined histories? This dark comedy propels them from Orange County to several afterlives, prompting encounters with a host of fantastic characters and unreal situations. ADULT LANGUAGE AND SITUATIONS.

Show runs September 19 - October 18:

  • Fri-Sat evenings at 8pm
  • Sun matinees at 2:30pm on Sept 28, Oct 5, and Oct 12
  • One Thursday evening show at 8pm on Oct 16

Rude Guerrilla Theater Company. 202 N Broadway, Santa Ana, CA. 92701. (714) 547-4688.


David Tran as Benjie
Brian Chayane Salero as Paco
Maggie Zamora as Madame
Rick Kopps as Grom
Alexander Price as Etienne/Tree
Trina Estanislao as Spirit
Frank Aranda as Garbanzo/Carlos
Adam J. Ferry/R.J. Romero as Frog/Ensemble
Ashley Jo Navarro as Cloud/Ensemble


Aurelio Locsin - Director/Sound Designer
Brenda Kenworthy - Stage Manager/Props
Lee Samuel Tanng - Choreographer/Assistant Director
Ryan Joyner - Lighting Designer
Sarah Boros - Costumer
Gerson Cortes - Production Assistant/Board Op
Danny-Doan H. Nguyen - Production Assistant/Board Op
Stu Eriksen - Set Builder
Jami McCoy - Stunts
Anthony Foo - Fabrications
Danny Crisp - Auditioner

Audition Notice

Rude Guerrilla Theater Company is holding open, non-union auditions for the World Premiere of “Helltown Buffet” (formerly "Consent"). This play is written and directed by Aurelio Locsin.

Can a Hometown Buffet manager and his hunky demon seducer fall in love through real and imagined histories? This dark comedy propels them from Orange County to several afterlives, prompting encounters with a host of fantastic characters and unreal situations.


AUDITIONS: Sunday, July 27, 7-9 pm. Monday, July 28, 7-8 pm.
CALLBACKS: Monday, July 28, 8 pm.

Cold reading from the script. Please bring headshots or a photo, and theater resume, if available.

ADDRESS/PHONE: 202 N. Broadway, Santa Ana, CA. 92701. (714) 547-4688.
There is some pay: a small stipend plus percentage of ticket sales.

Rehearsals begin Sunday, August 3, and will generally run Mon-Thu from 6:30pm-10pm, and Sunday mornings.

Show runs September 11-October 18 (Fri-Sat evenings at 8pm, Sun at 2:30pm, one Thurs evening on October 16 at 8pm.)

To keep up with the latest developments, subscribe to this blog using the links on the upper right.


All ethnicities encouraged to audition for the non-Asian roles. Non-union only please.

BENJIE: Male, 20-30, Asian/Latino to play Filipino, naïve, idealistic Hometown buffet manager who is seduced into temptation. Will speak some Tagalog and do a simple solo tribal dance. Must be comfortable with gay intimacy.

PACO: Male, 20-30, Asian/Latino to play Filipino, lower-class, tough but charming. Newbie demon earning his horns by tempting the innocent. Must be comfortable with gay intimacy.

MADAME LOVELESS: Female, 20-60. Boss of a lair in hell. Seductive and sexy one moment, angry and vindictive the next.

GROM: Male, 20-60. Madame’s bodyguard. Ruthless and loyal.

The following roles will double (as childlike spirits, diners, homeless people, etc.). Improv, dance, and movement skills a plus.

SPIRIT: Female, 20-70, Asian/Latino to play Filipino. Nutty but lovable earth mother in charge of the Filipino afterlife. Will do a simple solo tribal dance.

ETIENNE: Male, 20-60, flamboyant stylist in hell and greeter in Purgatory. French accent a plus.

GARBANZO/CARLOS: Male, 20-50, Latino or any race. Will speak some Spanish. Must be able to play two different characters. GARBANZO, 20-45, is a game show host and God’s gift to women. CARLOS, 40-55, is an ex-gangster, who is now a family man with bad eyesight and slowing reflexes.

ENSEMBLE: male or female, any age, to play additional speaking and non-speaking characters.

All actors will also be doing different voice-over characters.

Crews Control

Been receiving a ton of applications but haven't decided yet on crew for Helltown Buffet. Here's what's needed:

  • Stage Manager. Must be organized and proficient with email, because that's how we communicate offline.
  • Set Designer/Builder. Must be able to design and build a set on a very low budget. Resourcefulness is a must. I'm very open to any concepts you might have to fit the play. Costumer.
  • Costumes will cover modern to fantasy (for the sequences in hell and an eco-friendly Philippines afterlife) to Filipino tribal.
  • Choreographer to choreograph at least two dance sequences: one set in modern Southern California and another Ifugao-style tribal dance set in pre-Hispanic Philippines.
  • Sound Designer to select and design not only sound effect but music.
  • Lighting Designer.
  • Prop Master.
  • Two tech people to run the light and sound board.

If you're interested, email me a theater resume using the address on the left.

Rejecting Helltown Buffet or The Importance of Theater Research

Seattle-based SIS Productions rejected Helltown Buffet with a nice email. The reason? Not enough roles for women. True enough. The play focuses on men, with only two out of the seven main characters for women.

But some research into their theater could've saved some trouble. Their website clearly states that they strive " create, develop and produce quality works that involve Asian American women."

Good thing that email submissions don't use any postage. The cheap, simple lesson here is to always check out a theater's background before soliciting them.

The good news is that SIS is looking at my Asian Acting play collection, which has quite a few roles for women. The one all-male play of the collection, Tongue Lashing, can easily be replaced by Christmas Kisses, which is mostly about women, though not strictly an Asian play.

Meeting Up at the Beall Center

University of California - Irvine (UCI): the college students have bodies that still pull upward against the force of gravity, eyes that don't squint at small type, and dreams of fame and glory unmortgaged by the bank of real life.

Me, I have the Orange County Small Theater Meetup group: nearly 500 folk way past college who love small theater. (Their extreme good taste brought them to Language of Their Own a year ago. ) They also love art. Specifically, multi-media art at the UCI Beall Center.

But this was my first meet-up with them and so how would I recognize anyone.

Do I just go up to the occasional mature face among youthful crowd and say "Hello, you look old enough to be everyone's parent. Are you with the group?"

After 20 minutes of wandering the free Costco pizza, overpowering rock music, and student clubs offering free hugs, I was approached by Anna, the group organizer, who recognized me from Language of Their Own. She took me into a the fold of about nine people, all of whom held fascinating opinions about art, colored by their life experiences.

One exhibit (above): projected, life-sized, moving images of people talking about I Want, the exhibit title. The projectors rose high enough so the shadows of viewers didn't appear until they got very close to the image.

Projections as background for a stage set? Not cheap but can be effective.

Indiana Jones and the Eternal Explanations

This is not a review for Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, though for the record, Harrison Ford (left) and Shia Laboeuf (right, channeling Marlon Brando in Wild One) couldn't unhash this rehash of the series plots.

This is about what over-explaining can do to an action film:

"Indy, we need to run from the bad guys."

"Yes, but first you need to know why they're bad."

"Indy, we need to find the source of the crystal skull."

"Yes, but did you know who made the crystal skull and why it's dangerous?"

"Indy, run. Now."

"Yes, look how that tribe recalls the splendor of the Mayan empire. Speaking of Mayans..."

But I'm the Rubbermaid calling the kettle container "Tupperware." My play Consent bogs down with similar yakking scenes. At the time, they seemed necessary, but now they're like C-Span documentaries gone wild. Especially with Indy's example on the big screen.

Out comes the virtual scissors. Cut, cut, cut those scenes.

Speed Racer Inspirations

This isn't a movie review.

Though I did love the film for its fast action and its heartfelt story. The film also proved highly original in its directing and look, and yet remained true to its anime roots in a cartoon I barely remember. Emile Hirsch was also adorable as Speed (below left), Matthew Fox was masculine and in-control as Racer X (below center), and Rain, an Asian superstar in his American film debut, was vulnerably and hunky as a racing teammate (below right).

This is about the retro-future look of the film, painted in strong, primary colors to help communicate points in the story. (Speed Racer always wears white.) Check out the scene below for the retro part.

Susan Sarandon's green and yellow dress and John Goodman's red polo shirt could be out of a sixties sitcom. The colors contrast with the brown divider cut-outs, blue walls, and tan stone of their ranch-style home. The composition screams family-friendly suburbia.

And the pic below is the future:

With neon, smoothly curved cars, and racetracks with strong lines adding speed and movement to an already-fast sequence.

The art direction is giving me all kinds of set ideas for my play Consent such as how to use certain shapes and colors to distinguish between this life and the afterlife, or how to divide good from evil. I don't want to get too specific with any ideas, since the final is all up to my yet unchosen set designer and costumer.

At least now, when they ask me, what you had in mind, I won't give my standard answer "Whatever you want."

Instead, I'll say "Speed Race, the movie."

Language of Their Own one of the Top Picks of 2007 OC Theater

Eric Marchese, theater critic for the Orange County Register, picked "Language of Their Own" for Honorable Mention in his Top Picks of OC Theater for '07.

Top Ten

  1. Jekyl & Hyde @ FCLO
  2. Phantom @ FCLO
  3. The Crucible @ Rude Guerrilla
  4. Urinetown @ The Maverick
  5. Bat Boy @ STAGEStheatre
  6. Book of Days @ STAGEStheatre
  7. Side Show @ Westminster Community Theatre
  8. San Diego @ Rude Guerrilla
  9. Frozen @ The Chance
  10. Closer @ Hunger Artists

Honorable Mentions

  1. Language of their Own @ Rude Guerrilla
  2. A Little Night Music @ Costa Mesa Costa Mesa Civic Playhouse
  3. Much Ado about Nothing @ Hunger Artists
  4. Almost, Maine @ The Orange Curtain
  5. Frozen @ Hunger Artists
  6. The Visit @ Rude Guerrilla

Worst production of the year: Attack of the Giant Nuts @ Hunger Artists

Biggest Surpise: "Almost, Maine" @ The Orange Curtain

If anyone knows a link to the actual podcast of this announcement, please let me know.

Blurb for Helltown Buffet, formerly Consent

This advertising blurb for Helltown Buffet (formerly Consent) appears on the window monitor at Rude Guerrilla Theater.

This is a previous version of the blurb:

And here's an interpretation of the play by my niece, Sabrina Topacio.