The macho tango
Dancing with machismo in 'Tango Masculino'

NY Blade 4/19/2002


     Wings Theatre Company's "Tango Masculino" transports audiences to 1930's Buenos Aires, to the courtyard of a busy whorehouse. There, among the passel of whores and louts, local kingpin/stud Rosendo (Ivan Davila) falls in love with an unexpected figure -- the innocent street urchin Jorge (JoHary Ramos).
     Clint Jefferies' dramatic play is sparked by Paul L. Johnson's delicious


live tango music, played in interludes by a terrific trio and beautifully sung by gay actor Stephen Cabral. The play is gorgeously choreographed, both in its thrilling fight scenes and in the exquisite tango sequences, danced as it was originally, with men partnering each other. (Ironically, the tango was considered "obscene" by conservative Catholic society when danced by a man and a woman.)
     "Rosendo has definitely got some issues," says Davila, who himself rather defines papi chulo (i.e. "hot daddy"). "What makes him interesting is that he's so all across the board. Is he gay? Is he not? Does he just like to fuck?"
     Rosendo's machismo is also a big part of Davila's Guatemalan background and he observes, "Rosendo was probably the same way then he was seven because that's what his father was like. The machismo is so ingrained and the struggle begins when he starts to fight it because of his relationship with Jorge." Happily, Davila has no problem admitting that he is gay. "I've gone back and forth about being out," he says, "especially when you think, 'I'm  pretty close -- I might get this job, and then everybody's gonna know me.' The fantasies run through your mind. And then you think, 'Who cares?' It's just my life and has absolutely nothing to do with what character I can play."
     Davila recently received encouragement from acclaimed playwright Edward Albee, who called him out of the blue and spent two hours encouraging and advising him. (There may be a part for him in Albee's developing Garcia Lorca project.) "It's definitely the best thing that's happened to me since coming to New York." Davila says. "Hey, I'm a little, little actor, and I sat with Edward Albee for a while and he knows I'm out here and saying, 'You should be on "Oz.' You need an agent who's as exciting as you are.' Really cool."
     Playing the object of Rosendo's affection, Ramos is just as sweet and unaffected as his character (and the sight of him in period underwear is worth a trek to Wings by  

Local kingpin Rosendo (Ivan Davila, left) is passionate about Jorge (JoHary Ramos), but his orientation remains unclear.  CAROL ROSEGG

itself). A trained dancer from Puerto Rico, Ramos has just recently taken up acting.
     "I sent in my picture and resume for this," he says, "and it really surprised me that they picked me. This is my first English-speaking role, so this means a lot to me."
     Like Davila, the tango was basically new to Ramos, though you'd never know it from his strong performance.
     "Dancing is so different from acting," he notes. "The choreography is there for you to transmit emotions to the audience but in acting there's your internal choreography --  your attitude, delivering lines. I am amazed by how lovely that is."
     Despite his enthusiasm for acting, Ramos certainly doesn't want to abandon his focus on dance.
     "Since coming here," he says, "I've been amazed by Broadway. I was given a scholarship to study with Chet Walker, the creator of 'Fosse,' and I would love to do some Fosse work, like 'Chicago.'
     Ramos is more skittish about divulging his sexuality. "I try not to go to that subject because I'm an actor and I can portray whatever." he says. "You can ask me to be whatever you want on stage. If you ask me to go out after, that's something else."

Through May 4
The Wings Theatre
154 Christopher Street
Tickets are $19