Playwright: Raul Dorantes. At: Colectivo el Pozo at La Casa de Oscar Lopez, 2628 W. Division St.. Tickets: 815-690-6429; firstname.lastname@example.org; $15. Runs through: May 11
Raul Dorantes wastes no time on lengthy introductions. No sooner does our play start than we learn that the Gallardos' marriage is in trouble: For months, Fernando has been returning home to sleep on the couch, leaving Cristina, the mother of his son and his unborn child, wondering whether he might have a mistress. Tensions also abound in the Medina household, where Martin and Marta are both reconciled to the former's bisexualityexcept for Marta's obsession with becoming pregnant and bearing a son in the image of the man she loves.
The solution for these two unhappy couples lies in the club dubbed by its drag-queen owner Catarina"Cata" to her regularsEl Incas ( "capital of the Aztec Empire," despite its Mayan decor ). Within this pan-American sanctuary, closeted gay husbands pursue their natural inclinations and share the experiences leading them to embrace their incognito imperatives. Wives, too, after receiving candid advice from the worldly-wise Cata, discover in themselves the courage to abandon their idealized marital illusions and face their future options realistically.
Nearly a half-century after The Boys in the Band launched the genre, gay-themed plays continue to be dominated by preppy white males. Oh, sometimes a token best-buddy-of-color, or an obligatory Tina Turner-drag queen, will make an appearancebut rarely do you find discussion of homosexuality among demographical minorities. Dorantes proposes to remedy this by restricting his play's setting to Chicago's Latino communitya milieu considerably less unified than outsiders portray itand scripting 90 percent of its dialogue in Spanish ( with English subtitles projected onstage for exclusively Anglophonic theatergoers like me ).
The Colectivo el Pozo brings its topic even closer to home by choosing for its playhouse a gallery located along the Paseo Borrequa, in the very heart of Humboldt Park. The intimacy provided by the DIY storefront makes for immediate identification with the characters, as does the on-target commentary on current political and economic issues, not to mention local geographical references. ( Whoever knew the Indiana Dunes could be so romantic? )
The first preview performance was somewhat impaired by a few minor technical glitches, but director Juan Castaneda and his cast deftly navigate Dorantes' occasionally labored metaphors with winning charm and sympathyin particular, Alex Gualino as the unwaveringly serene Cata, whose survival tactics include the conversion of a psychopathological disorder into a personal mantra for relieving stress. ( You try chanting "Control Freak" a few times and see if it doesn't have a calming effect. )