References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot
nytheatre.com review by Danny Bowes
September 6, 2011
Jose Rivera's 2000 play References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot is, completely aside from having one of the greatest titles ever, a compelling if elliptical bit of magical realism, telling the tale of a young woman, married to a soldier, who either escapes from reality into dreams or from dreams into reality. The difference isn't terribly relevant, as the play takes the form of a dream, with not everything meant to be taken as literally true, even (especially?) those things that most seem to be.
Structurally, the play opens and closes with fantastical sequences featuring an anthropomorphic (and amorous) moon and a talking cat, who is in love with a coyote (also anthropomorphic). These bookend a very long, and stylistically radically different series of scenes between heroine Gabriela and her soldier husband Benito, who is haunted by his tour in the first Gulf War. Their marriage seems untenable, and crumbles before our eyes, and is portrayed vividly, sympathetic to both parties, who take turns being sympathetic and less so in the audience's eyes.
This is all presented in a visually gorgeous fashion by director Patrice Miller, her design team, and what is certainly one of the best-looking casts you're going to see on a stage anywhere in New York. From top to bottom, there are some fascinating and expressive faces in this ensemble; a great part of what makes them all so fascinating to watch is that they all act really, really well. Mia Romero, who also produced, is tremendous in the lead, in a performance that's clearly a great labor of love. As her husband, Patrick Cann turns in a terrifically nuanced performance as a man without much apparent nuance, alternately a regular Joe, an insensitive boor, and someone trapped by his lack of options in life.
As powerful as it is, this middle section between Gabriela and Benito, as well played as it is by Romero and Cann, is very long. Unfortunately, it's not a play that lends itself terribly well to an intermission, as part of what makes it what it is is the spell it casts over the audience, and certainly by this point in this review it should be clear that there are a great many things to recommend this production. References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot is playing at the Gene Frankel Theater until the 11th, an accidentally fortuitous date considering the subject matter, but whether you see it on that day or before, this is certainly a show to check out.