San Diego playwright’s love for classic monster movies inspired Diversionary’s ‘Monsters’

Christian St. Croix, left, and director Desireé Clarke inside a theater auditorium.
Playwright Christian St. Croix, left, and director Desireé Clarke at Diversionary Theatre, where St. Croix’s play “Monsters of the American Cinema” opens March 16.
(Courtesy of Peggy Ryan)

In San Diego-based playwright Christian St. Croix’s “Monsters of the American Cinema,” a Black man named Remy becomes the guardian of the son, Pup, that his White husband left behind when he died. The two share the grief of that loss — and a motorhome on the lot of a drive-in movie theater.

This is where those cinematic monsters come in. The drive-in that had belonged to Remy’s husband screens the iconic horror films produced by Universal Pictures in the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s — the kind that used to turn up on late-night television and are now staples of home video starring monsters like the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Frankenstein and Dracula.

“Monsters of the American Cinema” began as a workshop piece, part of Scripps Ranch Theatre’s “Out on a Limb” new play festival in 2018. From there, St. Croix expanded his 30-minute script into an hour for the San Diego Fringe Festival in 2019, where it won the Artists’ Pick award and Cultural Exchange award. Now, fully developed, “Monsters” is coming to Diversionary Theatre in University Heights after having its world premiere in Seattle in January.

“Diversionary was always one of my favorite theaters,” said St. Croix, who works for the San Diego Performing Arts League. “They’ve always committed to bringing in stories from people with different racial and ethnic backgrounds as well as people with different genders.”

Playwright Christian St. Croix, foreground, and director Desireé Clarke.
Playwright Christian St. Croix, foreground, and director Desireé Clarke at Diversionary Theatre, where St. Croix’s play “Monsters of the American Cinema” opens March 16.
(Peggy Ryan)

St. Croix is enthusiastic about the evolution of his play since its “Out on a Limb” beginnings.

“I was really excited to go into Remy’s backstory and explore why he would take on the monumental responsibility of caring for a child after losing his husband. (Pup) is not biologically his child, but I wanted to shed a spotlight on the kind of modern family we rarely get to see on stage,” said St. Croix.

“I think Remy represents hundreds of LGBTQ parents who are raising children that were not biologically theirs or who don’t even share their race.”

The “Monsters” story finds Remy and Pup often at odds, including when it’s discovered that the boy has been bullying someone else at school.

“It really gets tense,” said St. Croix. “Remy knows that Pup knows better than to do any of this.”

As to the monster movies on the drive-in screen that Remy and Pup can connect through, St. Croix recalls how stumbling onto “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” on television one night when he couldn’t sleep got him engrossed in the so-called “Universal Monsters.”

“I went back and watched a couple of those films and fell in love from there,” he said. “I grew up with Freddy Krueger and Jason. Looking to see what terrified people (in the ‘40s and ‘50s), it really didn’t take much. A moving shadow here, a monster with large horns popping out there.”

Directing “Monsters” at Diversionary will be Desireé Clarke. “I couldn’t ask for a better person to direct my little show,” said St. Croix. “She’s very much about bringing in the performances from the inside out.”

Following its Diversionary engagement, which ends on March 26, “Monsters of the American Cinema” will move on to Penny Seats Theatre in Ann Arbor, Mich., and then to Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

‘Monsters of the American Cinema’

When: Previews, Thursday and March 17. Opens March 18 and runs through March 26. Showtimes: 7 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays (with some additional performances on Wednesdays and Saturdays)

Where: Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd., University Heights

Tickets: $20-$50

Phone: (619) 220-0097


Coddon is a freelance writer.