by Eduardo Machado at the Theater for the New City

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This review by Gena Hymowech appeared in showbusinessweekly.com

There is a scene in which a group of men are at a Cuban gay pride parade, waving tiny rainbow flags and listening to an impassioned speaker. To the audience, it looks like they are free, but in reality they have all had to make compromises to live their lives, compromises that eat away at their souls.

Set in 2008, “Mariquitas” begins with the return of Jose Maria (Oscar Hernandez) to a Cuban bed and breakfast run by friends Ramon (Omar Chagall) and Ricardo (Liam Torres). The terminally ill Jose is back in Cuba to reunite with his beloved hustler Tito (Carlos A. Valencia) one more time before he dies. Jose hopes that death will happen naturally, but plans on euthanasia if it does not.

There are other plots as well: Ricardo, who first got involved with Ramon when he was a hustler, is tired of being under the older man’s thumb. He has put a lot of work into the bed and breakfast and wants part ownership. Meanwhile, Tito has converted to Santeria and is possessed by the spirit of an African slave, while another hustler, Cristobal (Ricardo Davila), yearns to leave Cuba but doesn’t have the money.

Although the play is focused on Cuba, there is something about it that brings to mind Mart Crowley’s “Boys in the Band,” the groundbreaking 60s play about gay life in America. Like Crowley, Machado has written about a group of different types of gay men who struggle with their place in society and their self-esteem.

But this show is not as strong as “Boys.” Now this is not to say there is nothing of value here—for the acting is very good; the dialogue intelligent; some characters are intriguing; and it’s fascinating to see the mostly hidden gay culture of Cuba. But the majority of characters do not change much from where they started, and that keeps the play from ever really going anywhere. It is also, at over two-and-a-half hours, much too long. It could have easily been edited by taking out uninteresting and non-essential scenes and characters. With its gripping subject matter, “Mariquitas” (which translates basically into “pansy”) could have been much more affecting, but it never reaches its potential—much in the way these smart men cant seem to make much happen in their own lives.

“Mariquitas” continues through May 19 at the Theater for the New City, 155 1st Avenue, Manhattan; (212) 254-1109, http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net/.

For the original report go to http://showbusinessweekly.com/article-2256-“mariquitas”-by-eduardo-machado.html

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by Eduardo Machado at the Theater for the New City

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