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 Gabrielahas 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 exquisitelyby Lauren LoGrasso, as Gabriela, exhausting herself with emotionalexcess, 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 ironic.
“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?