AlterTheater: High quality professional theatre presented in a storefront

(Charles Kruger)

(Rating: 4/5 Stars » Highly Recommended)

This reviewer is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle (SFBATCC)

AlterTheater does an excellent job with Jose′ Rivera‘s References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, a surreal play full of dream like images that explore the effects of war on the marriage of a young Army officer and his wife.  This very moving play won Rivera an Obie when it premiered in 2001 and it is easy to see why.

In the magical opening sequence, a house cat (Jeanette Harrison) is seduced by a coyote (Sean Wesslund), a housewife (Carla Pauli) is seduced by the moon (a very amusing Marvin Greene), and a teenage boy (Marilet Martinez, playing convincingly across gender boundaries) desperately pleads with the housewife for his first taste of love. These surreal stories are communicated with grace and wit by a sexy, passionate cast of actors.

As the play progresses, we realize that we have been watching the frustrated dreams of the housewife, who is awaiting the return of her soldier husband (Matt Jones) from the field. When he does arrive, ready for love, he finds his wife less than welcoming as she confronts him with her frustrations as an army wife. In the intimate scene which follows, he defends his choices, but also reveals the extent to which he has been damaged by war. Rivera’s passionately exposed dialog captures oceans of feeling in these two young people, and we are carried gently through their laughter and tears. It is a touching exploration of a loving marriage under intense pressure.

Matt Jones as Benito and Carla Pauli as Gabriela in AlterTheater’s production of José Rivera’s “References To Salador Dali Make Me Hot”. Photo Credit: Benjamin Privitt.

Designers Wiljago J. Cook, Norman Kern, Aviva Raskin and Selina G. Young have done an amazing job transforming a storefront space into a theatre. The result is uncompromising in its success. There is real theatrical magic in the moments at the top of the evening when the lights change and the storefront is mysteriously transported to the desert. In an astonishingly risky and quite brilliant decision, the windows opening on the street are left without curtains. One can look out the window at passing pedestrians and traffic, and they can look in. The effect of making both audience and performers hyper aware of the theatrical situation is unnerving and highly effective, especially for this surrealistic play. It makes for quite a remarkable experience.

All of the performers in this production shine, but Matt Jones as the husband, Benito, brings a particularly thrilling stage presence. Mr. Jones, an Associate Artist with AlterTheater, has been very active the past year throughout the Bay area and always seems to deliver the goods.

AlterTheater is a remarkable company, creating work of high quality in a very unusual setting, and supporting the efforts of new playwrights. It is well worth the drive to San Rafael to keep tabs on their activities. Highly recommended.

References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot continues through May 20. For further information, click here.


References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot by Jose′ Rivera, produced by AlterTheater. Director: Wilma Bonet. Space Designer: Wiljago J. Cook. Sound Designer: Norman Kern. Costume Designer: Aviva Raskin. Lighting Designer: Selina G. Young. Fight Choreographer: Marilet Martinez.

Gabriela: Carla Pauli. Moon: Marvin Greene. Cat: Jeanette Harrison. Coyote: Sean Wesslund. Martin: Marilet Martinez. Benito: Matt Jones.


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