Walker Hare, left, and Luis Vega appear in “Camp Maldito.” (Courtesy Will Given)

Walker Hare, left, and Luis Vega appear in “Camp Maldito.” (Courtesy Will Given)

‘Campo Maldito’ a thrilling, chilling comedy about gentrification

In “Campo Maldito,” when weird things start happening in the ramshackle office of a three-year-old internet startup company in the Tenderloin — computer crashes, power failures, exploding water pipes — geeky entrepreneur Ken senses the presence of a malevolent force, one that wants him gone.

He’s right about that.

In this contemporary ghost story, a People of Interest production that premiered in San Diego in 2014 and has played at the San Francisco and New York fringe festivals, local playwright Bennett Fisher has more on his mind than just chills and thrills, although there’s plenty of that.

He wants us to think about the inhabitants of the Tenderloin, and how they’re faring during The City’s runaway gentrification. The company — founded by the play’s director, Jesca Prudencio — is offering free tickets to neighborhood residents.

The enthralling two-hander begins with the arrival (at 5 a.m. on a Sunday) of a Santeria priest (who is, not incidentally, a recovering alcoholic).

He’s a seemingly stoical, bald-headed guy, in a Niners jersey and a fanny pack, whom Ken has hired to purify the office.

Immediately there’s trouble.

Ken, who’s been sleeping on the floor of the office, is taken by surprise. How did this stranger get in the building? he wonders — and attacks him with a handy computer keyboard.

From that point on, the relationship between the two goes through various stages as the priest attempts to rid the environment of the malevolent spirit — one that, as it transpires, he himself knows all too well.

As the priest, Luis Vega is terrific, at times cool and all business, at other times menacing, taut, wigged out. He easily and convincingly transitions from one emotional state to another.

And he’s well matched by tall and lanky Walker Hare as the befuddled computer geek, although in a secondary role (no spoilers here), Hare makes such low-key acting choices that the play’s intensity and energy flag, leaving Vega little to play against.

It’s only there, though, that director Prudencio’s sure hand falters (well, that and the fact that some of the action takes place on the floor, where only those in the first row, or really tall people, can see what’s going on). Otherwise, as enhanced by Sarah Winter’s lighting design and
Chad Goss’ ominous sound effects, the edgy atmosphere is sustained.

When you exit the Exit onto Eddy Street, the Tenderloin just might look slightly different to you.

REVIEW 
Campo Maldito
Presented by People of Interest
Where: Exit Theatre, 156 Eddy St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays; closes Aug. 13
Tickets: $15 to $25
Contact: www.theexit.org

Bennett FisherCampo MalditointernetJesca PrudencioPeople of InterestTenderloinTheaterWalker Hare

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Azikiwee Anderson of Rize Up Bakery pulls and twists sourdough into shape on Wednesday, June 2, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
San Francisco’s Rize Up Bakery serving up sourdough with a call to action

Azikiwee Anderson wakes up most mornings just before dawn to start cooking… Continue reading

Although The City has been shut down and largely empty, people have enjoyed gathering in places such as Dolores Park. <ins>(Al Saracevic/The Examiner)</ins>
Come back to San Francisco: The City needs you now

Time to get out of the house, people. The City’s been lonely… Continue reading

A surveillance camera outside Macy’s at Union Square on Tuesday, July 28, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Is the tide turning against surveillance cameras in SF?

Crime-fighting camera networks are springing up in commercial areas all around San… Continue reading

San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott speaks alongside Mayor London Breed at a news conference about 2019 crime statistics at SFPD headquarters on Jan. 21, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What the media gets wrong about crime in San Francisco

By Lincoln Mitchell Special to The Examiner Seemingly every day now, you… Continue reading

Vice President Kamala Harris is under fire for her comments in Guatemala earlier this week. (Examiner file photo.)
SF immigration advocates slam Kamala Harris’ ‘betrayal’ to her past

Kamala Harris’ comments earlier this week discouraging Central Americans from traveling to… Continue reading

Most Read