The Off-Off Broadway Review (OOBR)

Macho men

Tango Masculino

By Clint Jefferies & Paul L. Johnson
Directed by Jeffery Corrick
Wings Theatre Company
154 Christopher St. (627-2960)
Equity showcase (closes May 4)
Review by Elias Stimac

Tango Masculino, with book and lyrics by Clint Jefferies and music by Paul L. Johnson, is a sensational, sensuous show, filled with music and dance, sex and romance, prostitutes and politics. Part of the Wings Theatre Company's "New Musicals Series" and "Gay Plays Series," the production, under the razor-sharp direction of Jeffery Corrick, is another example of the group's original and innovative offerings, and is not to be missed.

The show is actually a play within a play, told through song by the vibrantly vocal duo of Maureen Griffin and Stephen Cabral as a pair of cabaret crooners in Buenos Aires in the 1930s. Johnson's evocative melodies and Jefferies's provocative lyrics transport viewers back to the turn of the century. It was a time when men were men, macho and proud of it. This did not, however, prevent them from dancing with other men (or men dressed as women) while waiting for the bordello girls to service them.

Into this den of sin and spirits comes a brash young "chico" named Jorge (JoHary Ramos). He hopes to gain employment from Rosendo (Ivan Davila), a powerful man who oversees some of the whores and other seedy ventures. The two butt heads immediately, but Rosendo eventually agrees to hire Jorge to do small errands. Ultimately, however, their relationship leads to one of a more intimate nature, and although each man is fearful of being branded a homosexual, they end up in bed together. How this clandestine affair stands up in the face of personal expectations and public scrutiny is played out against an explosive political climate that threatens each of the residents at the bordello.

The script by Jefferies is sublime, staged by Corrick with a dramatic flair. Although the initial scene was slightly hesitant, the rest of the play steadily picked up momentum. The cast of characters was uniformly talented. Davila commanded the stage in the demanding role of Rosendo, completely confident until he becomes conflicted by his feelings for another man. Ramos matched Davila in intensity, and impressively alternated between being aloof and aggressive. Mickey Goldhaber displayed toughness and wisdom as the bordello owner. Paul Taylor was convincing as a fiercely funny cross-dresser, Karen Stanion stood her ground as Rosendo's strong-willed lover, and Samantha Clarke was sweetly alluring as a girl who gets a chance to marry and leave the bordello. The entire ensemble played their parts with panache, including Gustavo Santamarina, Antonio Marquez, Angel Comas, Roberto Cambeiro, and Miguel Belmonte.

Johnson also served as musical director and keyboardist, leading the rousing band comprised of bandoneon player David Hodges, violinist/guitarist Joseph Brent, and guitarist Meyer de Leeuw.

Lighting designer Cindy Shumsey made the daylight shimmer and the sunsets glow, and the party lights were an effective touch. Sam Sommer's setting was suitably fragile and faded. Tom Claypool enticed the senses with his sharp array of costume choices. The dance choreography by Kate Swan was slick and seductive, equaled in intensity and agility by Kymberli E. Morris's forceful fight choreography. The uncredited sound design was occasionally muddy but on the whole satisfactory.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac