SOMEWHERE BETWEEN MARS AND VENUS by Yvonne Tutelli, The Theatre Tattler
I have to stop blaming others, I thought as I made my way into Wild Project Theatre to catch Fresh Fruit Festival’s opening nite of Somewhere Between Mars and Venus, written and directed by Otto Sanchez. Owning up to who one is– Is the working theme of the evening. Owning up without blame.
As the lights came up, Juana (Otto Sanchez) encounters Anika (Angelita Romero). Through their first meeting, the audience is lifted into their tale, traversing into and through numerous times spans, transitions, diverse family pods, and flashbacks. The language is lovely, as are the characterizations and the work of the actors that crafted them, both rich and poignant.
Juana and Angelita meet in a bar, recognizing each other for who they each are, and we are off.
Through the years of their friendship, their grappling struggle with self-identity plays out. The flashbacks lay the land as we are taken back to the same weekend gay marriage became legal, the summer of 2015, with a trip back in time to 1982, which explains a lot. Juana loves sex. “Sex makes the suffering go away. It make life go on. It’s necessary and its fun!”
Well on many levels, I guess that’s true. Who can dispute that? Juana meets his star-crossed love, culturally Jewish trans-person (Anika), a trans-beauty recently over her recovery from reassignment surgery, as she goes about her life. Anika is present, vibrant, embracing her new freedom, wildly responsive to Juana’s self-described ‘old Puerto Rican queen’, who she picks up in a bar. Angelito Romero (Anika) is an amazing performer, committed to the core.
But who picked who?
“Being a woman and becoming a woman are two very separate things,” we are informed, “and it has nothing to do with what is between your legs!”
Good to know, but remember this is the this is logic from the same person who will say they are a “born-again virgin”, an inside joke if ever there was one. Again, something to ponder, but not for too long. Sanchez offers a gritty portrait of 80‘s New York: of the streets, of the bars, of relationships and agreements. Of choosing who you choose to be when you choose what/who you are not. Not because what you are isn’t, but because a determined decision has been reached about what you are not.
“Why are we born different? Why are we constantly rearranging the order of things? Juana asks. I don’t know. I can’t answer that question and it’s the grand slam question Sanchez as playwright and Sanchez as actor/director strive to shove all the way home.
As I pondered it, I felt a wave of relief wash over my God-given female anatomy, which I’ve kept, as is, no installments, no upgrades, happy to live as a woman and to not be an old sex-craven Nuyorican queen picking up a misunderstood he who has become she. Lord knows it’s complicated enough just navigating with the original apparatus. But now I’ve become interested in somebody who’s path isn’t mine. This is the true joy behind the entire Fresh Fruits Festival. But there, I’ve said it: I’m comfortably unashamedly a woman, and Juana and Anika are too, in their own way. They are all for all expressions of sexuality, sensuality, unleashed boundaries.
““Labels…Juan urges, “Cans need them- not people.”
Both Sanchez and Romero are stunning, blessed with opening nite charm. Supporting cast members Terry Lee Kind “Miss Guided” (who is the role), along with her sidekick J.L Perkel (Linda), inhabit the excursion back in time to Juana”s younger years, Perkel absolutely nailing it in scene after scene. Jonothan Weirich plays Morty Donovan, a raging TV talk show host with whom we are all too familiar. He brings wit and irony to the inciting nature of the mutinous daytime television era of calling out people for being who they are, and then making a big buck off of it.
Jose Coyoc is credited with choreography, stage tech and managerial duties. Great job!
I left the show with the greatest one-liner I’d not yet heard, and its my new bumper sticker, should I ever need one: “I’m straight and bendable and always dependable.” Thank you Juana and Company for an immersive evening.
“Why are we born different? Why are we constantly rearranging the order of things? Juana asks.
I don’t know. I can’t answer that question and it’s the grand slam question Sanchez as playwright and Sanchez as actor/director strive to shove all the way home. “