March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Hot-blooded 'Salvador Dali' ended the MSU theater season in style

The provocative title of “References to Salvador Dali Make Me
Hot” opened a doorway to the most sizzling salsa sexuality on a live stage in a
very long time. When was the last time you experienced observing a writhing
female cat-woman in heat copulating with a coyote-man three inches away from
your left shoe?

Scene designer Chip Davis III opened up the cavern-like
confines of the Michigan State University Arena stage with a sand-swept expanse of spaciousness that
suggested an infinite desert stretching everywhere. The moon emerged out of
darkness, a gaunt figure perched on a flat-topped obelisk. He played a
soulful violin as the coyote was seen slinking into the courtyard of the cat: Zachera
Wollenberg in a black leotard, one leg naked, the other in a black
stocking. She had all the moves,
undulating across the floor. Adam Ehrlich was the “Coyote,” scruffy and wild. This was magic realism at its best, a dream sequence in the mind’s eye of central
character Gabriela, who slept semi-naked on the desert floor. Playwright Rivera’s wordplay between
cat and coyote is seductive and sensuous, as both animals imagine devouring
each other’s sexual parts. Wollenberg and Ehrlich generated heat, hot, hot, heat —
with syrupy succulent sounds and howling, moaning, soft, whispery voices.

Eventually, this sequence moved to the sides of the set,
opening up the center of the stage for the reality-based core of the play.
Benito, coming home war-torn, damaged and horny from the conflicts in
Iraq and Afghanistan, arrives to
discover Gabriela has been
flirt-dancing with Martin, her 14-year-old neighbor, who spies on her each night on the desert sands. Reality mirrors the dream sequence as Gabriela and Benito struggle with urgent
upfront raw sexuality combined with the disappearance of sensual tenderness during the time
they have been apart. Much of Act II is an extended love-hate conflict,
which was acted out exquisitely by Lauren
LoGrasso, as Gabriela, exhausting herself with emotional excess, while Benito, played by Curran Jacobs, displayed a contrasting, tightly
wired rage that eventually exploded as well. This conflict comes to a climax, literally, as the couple
retreats to the marital bed, violently merging with each other in pain and
passion. Will they survive this earthquake encounter and live to see another
day? LoGrasso and Jacobs became a
matched pair in this eruptive sexual dance, as real as real can get.

Equally well-matched
in this production were the words of the playwright with the performances. Chris Robinson, as Martin, was
delightfully adolescent, while the Moon, played by Dennis Corsi, was amusingly

“References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot” colors the trauma of life in a
time of war with an intense range of emotion that rips our deadened souls wide open. The aspects of Magic Realism force us to look into the mirror of self-reflection.
Are we mere animals? Can tenderness and love survive the wretchedness of war?