The critically acclaimed References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot takes to the stage this week in Savannah. As the name alludes, it is a surrealistic, tumultuous, romantic, rhythmic, and sometimes lascivious theatre piece by contemporary playwright and Oscar nominee Jose Rivera.
It is a heartbreaking tale of the wayward marriage of Benito and Gabriela, a young Hispanic couple living in the Barstow, California desert. Presented by SCAD Performing Arts MFA Candidate Bevin Prince as her masters thesis work, References will open on Wednesday, April 11th at the Jepson Center for the Arts and run for three shows.
The play is Prince’s directorial and production debut. The North Carolina native is a second year graduate performing arts major whose credits include SCAD’s Almost Maine, Hair, and La Traversee, in addition to guest starring roles on TV’s House and Desperate Housewives.
She is best known for her longstanding guest role (as Bevin Mirskey) on the series One Tree Hill.
“My career in television provided beneficial acting experience and exposure,” says Prince.
“But I have newfound a home in theater, thanks to my education at SCAD. Through coursework and time spent with colleagues and professors, I have been awakened to a different style of acting.”
This professional reawakening was sparked in large part by a reading of Rivera’s References last fall. Wholeheartedly inspired, Prince launched a Kickstarter campaign in February to help fund the production. The campaign was successful, with more than $6,000 raised by 81 donors in support of the play.
“References to Salvador Dali absolutely captivated me,” she explains.
“The story is powerful and resonates with anyone who has ever been in love. That feeling of understanding, that universality, is why I wanted to bring this play to the stage and I’m completely humbled that I have the chance to do so.”
To be sure, References is not to be taken lightly. In characteristic Rivera fashion, the story is spun through alternating sequences of dreams and reality, poetry and prose.
Though it’s never clear which state more accurately foreshadows the couple’s future, the magical–realism of References lends itself to an heightened emotional experience — their mutual pain is afflicting; memories of their love–drunk youth are infectious; and the disconnect between the two extremes is ubiquitously internalized.
References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot was published in 2000 as Rivera’s 15th play. He hails from Puerto Rico and, as is true for References, his body of work largely reflects his Latino heritage.
He is best known internationally for Marisol and Each Day Dies with Sleep, which have been translated into seven languages. He’s also recognized for his screenplay adaptation of Che Guevara’s memoirs for the silver screen in Motorcycle Diaries.
“The play is sad but is also fantastical, comedic, and tender,” says Prince. “It is a mediative statement on the loneliness that can exist between two people. But it as much about understanding yourself as it is understanding the one you love.”
Benito (played by Matt O’Boyle) has just returned from a tour of duty. He is struggling to balance a soldier’s sense of self–isolation and loneliness in post–war assimilation against the responsibilities of a husband — lover and companion — returned home to a disenfranchised and emotional wife.
His pain is masked by a veneer of insensitivity, impatience, and sexual aggression that leads whimsical and romantic Gabriela (as performed by Elizabeth Byland) to further ponder the navigability of her marriage and her future.
Meanwhile, the bewitching young bride is hotly pursued by an anthropomorphic, sweet–talking moon and an amorous young neighbor boy.
A similarly hot–tempered affair ensues between the couple’s cat and a native coyote as the play unfolds between scenes in the kitchen and garden.
“At the end of the day, it would seem that men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” says Prince.
“It is a never–ending tale of desperation and redemption, in this case complicated by the effects of time, war, and distance.”
“I cannot wait to see it come alive on stage.”
References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, April 11-13
Where: Jepson Center for the Arts, 207 W. York St.
Admission: $10 at the door, or $5 with valid student identification