The King of the Desert (El Rey del Desierto)


Reviewed by Bea Wolff

Ed Kriege

René Rivera in the World Premiere of The King of the Desert (El Rey del Desierto)

In an amazing tour de force performance, René Rivera astonishes the audience with his portrayal of a Mexican-American actor/husband/father/son, who struggles both personally and culturally to find his identity. Pushed by his wife and propelled by love of her and his daughter, the actor makes public his search to understand his cultural lineage; the personal confusion that led him to moments of escape; and his history of acting that continually made use of his greatest survival tool, his imagination. Remarkably, Rivera plays the actor as a little boy and teenager – and his mother, father, teacher, neighborhood bully, brother, cop and others — with as much credibility and passion as he plays the actor as a grown man.

The King of the Desert was written by Stacey Martino in order to make sense of her own father’s life and the rich cultural lineage that they shared. Although the second half has some minor flaws in terms of structure and build, the first half is written to perfection. Throughout, Martino’s generous heart, passion for truth and compelling sense of urgency dominate the storytelling and make this spectacular play an extraordinary, fresh theater experience. Directed with exuberance by Valentino Ferriera, The King of the Desert is presented by CoActive Content, which donates 10% of the proceeds from the run to the National Latino Children’s Institute (NLCI).

Now performing at the Chaplin Stage at the El Centro Theatre, 804 North El Centro Street, Hollywood, CA 90038. Thursdays and Fridays, May 6 to June 11, 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15.00 for the general public; for students, seniors & guild members, $10.00. For tickets, phone: (323) 960-5774. Or buy online at

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