Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sol Theatre Project: Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown (2 reviews)

While a lot of people were under the impression that Sol Theatre Project had already closed (it's been for sale for awhile), they've just opened Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown, by Guillermo Reyes.

Robert Hooker directs Angel Perez in this one-man show.

Christine Dolen reviews for the Miami Herald:
As swan songs go, Guillermo Reyes' Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown is both a simple and affecting farewell from Fort Lauderdale's Sol Theatre Project. The company's founding partners, Robert Hooker and Tony Priddy, are moving, so it's likely that Reyes' solo show will be the last from Sol with its funky space and eclectic artistic history.
That's something else that Rod Stafford missed; that this is probably the last show at Sol.
Under Hooker's direction, the actor works up quite the sweat playing new immigrant Federico, a cast-out lover, a man damaged by a dad who was in the torture business, a gay restaurateur and a stressed-out English teacher.

But Perez, who was the dramatic anchor of the company's 2005 production of Trafficking in Broken Hearts, engagingly pulls it off.
Men on Verge of a His-panic Breakdown is, by turns, warm, sad, funny and unsettling. Together, Perez and Hooker mine the piece for all its emotional colors.
Rod Stafford Hagwood wrote for the Sun-Sentinel:
It's a bit of a lurching marathon run (complete with awkward dancing) that follows Perez playing five roles, including: a naive young gay immigrant, a West Hollywood kept boy and a repressed English instructor. While these other characters sometimes feel rushed and always overly-calibrated, it is also true that Perez shifts into fifth gear with the fifth monologue as Paco, a Cuban immigrant restaurateur exiled by his conservative Miami family to the desert. Perez dissolves and Paco comes into sharp focus.
Reyes' script, as good as it is in illuminating transcultural shock of race and gender in Los Angeles, doesn't seem to mine its own gold thoroughly. For example, he only takes glancing swipes at a deaf Barbra Streisand impersonator who hand signs People and the contradictory traps seemingly built into the English language (a vast Right-Wing conspiracy to trip up recent arrivals?). You sense Perez could have sank his teeth into that, if only Reyes had written more red meat for him.
Rod's opinions might make more sense if this play was written for this production. But this is a play that's been around for some time. It's played across the country, from LA (where it won two Ovation awards in 1994), to New York's Off-Broadway, and points in between.

Hagwood's statement brings to mind the hack actor who was butchering HAMLET. The audience started booing, and hissing, and throwing stuff at him. Finally, the actor had enough: "HEY!" he yelled at the crowd: "Give me a break - I didn't write this crap!"

A script may work, or it may not work. But if an actor can't find "the meat" in a tried-and-true award-winning script that's been around for 15 years, look to the actor and the director, not the playwright. If Rod had bothered to do even a little research, he'd have known that the play, as written, contains seven roles, not five. Might not the two missing scenes have affected what's left? Maybe not, but Rod didn't even know that the script had had some pretty major cuts. The "red meat" may have been cut away during the rehearsal process.

Note to Sun-Sentinel: theatre critique requires more than just showing up with a notepad. Please stop inflicting Rod on us.

Men on the Verge of a His-panic Breakdown plays at Sol Theatre Project through July 18, 2009.

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