Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot at Moxie
Borders blur between dream and reality in Jose Rivera's magic-realism piece, even between the Barstow desert and young Gabriela's military housing, where the neighbor women, who bore her to tears, are just "sex slaves" for macho husbands and where, she's convinced, the cacti are closing in.
Her husband of 11 years, Benito, is a Gulf War vet with PTSD issues based on a horrific decision. For the last two months, he's been "in the field" doing work as dull, to his action-hungry mind, as her life at home. But has he grown light years from the sensitive man she married?
And just what is real to Gabby? Her human-sized cat teases a coyote, dressed in black leather (and later morphs into an un-dead Dracula). Sand flows from her ice cube tray. She has frequent conversations with the moon, who not only talks back, he comes out of her refrigerator and complains that he hasn't been the same since Shakespeare's Juliet called him "inconstant."
And yet, he's the sanest of the bunch, including 14-year-old Martin. And here another border blurs: does Martin worship Gabby, as he says, or is he just eager to lose his virginity and she's the nearest object?
In Act two, the insides of her house close in, as if there were wars within wars within wars. Amid the surrealistic blurs and warps, Gabby needs a definite answer about her marriage.
Her plight recalls Mr. Dylan's: "I woke up on the wrong side, day-dreaming 'bout the way things a-really are."
The play's title evokes Dali's dripping clocks and "From the Tears of Women." But the spare, poetic, highly sensual presentation recalls the great Andalusian poet/playwright Federico Garcia Lorca, who could conjure lyricism from barren landscapes.
So do Christopher Ward's scenic design and Jennifer Brawn Gittings' artwork: bright, golden sand and a blue-black sky. You can almost hear the wind - or music miles away (in Matt Lescault-Wood's subtle sound design).
John Padilla plays a suave, funny Moon, a bit reminiscent of Dali. Steven Lone's Coyote is really randy. Anna Rebek's Cat is an appropriately saucy tease. And Apollo Blatchley's young Martin is hormone-enriched to overflowing (everyone is horny - sex-famished, in fact - and headed off at the pass).
Like Lorca, by concentrating on the elemental, Rivera raises questions about allegiance, a woman's "place," the tugs of flesh and spirit. He often expresses the questions in Lorca-like poetry.
In many ways director Dana I. Harrell does a commendable job with this slippery play. An exception is the poetry. Whenever the actors have a "poetic" line, they slow down, stretch and fondle it for all it's worth. In effect, they savor the words for the audience.
It's said if an actor cries the audience won't. The same could be said of precious, "theater poetry."
Jorge Rodriguez gets all of Benito's pent-up frustrations and inability/reticence to articulate them. What's needed, to balance the story: a suggestion that, as a character says, "it wouldn't kill him to learn something from his wife."
Jacqueline Grace Lopez's Gabriela effectively wavers from perplexity to assertion, imagination and reality (she reverses the "normal" sense of those words). Lopez makes Gabriela's plight - as a woman, a Latina, a military wife - truly compelling.
Image by Daren Scott
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