Theatre Review: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

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(Sacramento, CA)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

(Old mariachi tune…)

“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” is set 90 years ago in rural Mexico, where the tumbleweeds roll through arid mountains, and the letter of the law is seldom observed. It’s a tale about how hidden gold leads to greed, and greed leads to killing. You may recall the film, a black and white classic from 1948.

Now there’s a theatrical version, at California Stage. It’s a modest theater located in an old metal shed by the light rail tracks. And the patriarch of Sacramento actors, 86-year-old Mitch Agruss, is the star. He plays a cagey old coot named Howard, who realizes that the miners he’s working with can’t be trusted.

“Let’s say you tie me to a tree, for the animals to shred my flesh. Then you both took off down the hill, with everything. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised, boys, no no no. (Chuckles). I’ve seen what gold does, even to honest men. I’ve seen it!.”

Seeing Agruss is a treat. He’s short and stocky, but surprisingly spry, with white hair, and twinkling eyes. And his timing and delivery are impeccable.

But once you get past this one special performance, this production is a mixed bag. The direction is choppy, and the script falls back on clichés. Still, the opportunity to watch an old master who’s in fine form makes this show worthwhile.

(music out)