In the alphabet soup—LGBTQIA—that we associate with our community, it’s the “B” for bisexuality that can be the most vexing label. It’s taken decades to convince the enlightened public that sexual orientation is not a choice — we’re born this way, aren’t we? — yet the desire or ability to love both men and women seems to contradict this presumption.
Some gays and lesbians resent bisexuals for “having their cake and eating it, too,” benefitting from a sexual outlet and the opportunity to pursue a life within the “norms” of traditional society.
For others, labeling oneself bisexual may provide a convenient transitional step in the coming out process, proving in most cases, “it’s complicated,” as the character in one of two plays opening this weekend proclaims.
Both Ricky J. Martinez’s world premiere, Road Through Heaven, at New Theatre in Miami and British playwright Mike Bartlett’s Cock at GableStage in Coral Gables attempt to shed some light on emotional and sexual fence bisexuals sit.
Road Through Heaven, the second play of the talented Martinez’s Island Trilogy, is set on an isolated island ruled by superstition and follows an unlikely love triangle between Victor (Martinez), Delores (Evelyn Perez) and 21-year-old aspiring poet Jesus (Javier Cabrera). Theirs is indeed a “complicated” relationship as Victor and Delores share their bed with Jesus.
The locals accuse them of being “afflicted” and bully them, throwing stones and shouting epithets. The unlikely relationship takes an even more surprising turn when Victor, a machismo sugar plantation worker, proclaims his attraction for the youthful Jesus.
Each of the characters is driven by passion, benefitting in their own ways from the three-way relationship. This fact is accentuated by the staging, with the audience sitting right on the stage at the edge of a white sand beach designed by Amanda Sparhawk. At times, the actors are just inches away as they spit out the fiery dialogue. Director Margaret Ledford gets the most from her cast, even though Martinez’s script still needs some development.
Set in contemporary London, Cock is, in some ways, just as unlikely a story. Gay men are familiar with that joke: You never hear about a “bisexual” man sneaking out on his boyfriend to be with a woman. In Bartlett’s play, that’s exactly the case, as John (Ryan Didato) finds himself sleeping with a woman, “W” (Julie Kleiner), who he noticed during his daily commute. John’s older ex, “M” (Nicholas Richberg), is determined to fight for his man.
The battle for John’s heart between takes place in an abstract boxing ring designed by Lyle Baskin and scene changes marked by a bell and effective lighting designed by Matt Corey and Jeff Quinn.
Ultimately, John doesn’t become a prize for either. He enjoys the sex with W but loves M. Even M’s father, “F” (Peter Galman), who shows up for the explosive confrontation at a dinner party, but cannot convince John.
The cast and production, under the expert direction of Joseph Adler, should dominate next year’s Carbonell Awards. Adler’s staging of the sex scenes, in particular, can only be described as brilliant, if fully clothed.
Didato gives the performance of a lifetime, except at his youthful age there will undoubtedly be many more. His John is truly conflicted, certain of only one thing, the need to define himself. Richberg also gives a sublime performance, a lover who is both controlling and vulnerable, and definitely a big drama queen. The same goes for Kleiner, whose W sees the opportunity to catch the man of her dreams and isn’t afraid to go for it, remaining in the fight to the bitter end.
But, most importantly, the entire cast is convincingly British, going beyond the obvious accents to the subtle facial expressions and gestures that are primarily found in this country on PBS and BBCAmerica.
I have to admit, I don’t get bisexuality, but agree with John, “it’s complicated.” One thing I do know is these productions, and Cock, in particular, should not be missed.
If You Go:
Road Through Heaven
By Ricky J. Martinez
New Theatre at the Roxy Performing Arts Center,
1645 SW 107th Ave. in Miami
8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sunday
through June 2
Tickets $40 at New-Theatre.org
By Mike Bartlett
GableStage at Biltmore Hotel,
1200 Anastasia Ave. in Coral Gables
8 p.m. Thursday – Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday
through June 16
Tickets $37.50 - $50 at GableStage.org JW Arnold