References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot
Written by José Rivera
Directed by Xiomara Cornejo

Hot (A)live theatre at MOLAA"
By Greggory Moore


The Museum of Latin American Art’s first-ever theatrical event was business as usual for Alive Theatre, who in their short existence have formed a habit of making non-traditional venues fit to their purposes, purposes that have ranged from the high literary to burlesque and camp. On March 29 it was José Rivera’s References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, a bit of minor-key magic realism that unfolded without a hitch in MOLAA’s outdoor sculpture garden.

centers around the intermixed dreaming and wakefulness of Gabriela, a 26-year-old army wife who wonders if the husband with whom she once marveled at the moon is the same as the Benito who will return the next day from a year-long tour of duty in the (first) Gulf War, or if life as he has known it has purged from him all sense of metaphor and wonder. Helping Gabriela (and us) explore dialectics such as spirit/flesh, intimate/estranged, secret/open, and feral/tame are her housecat and a coyote, a 14-year-old peeping Martin, and the moon himself (who plays a mean violin). With Dali, Rivera (best known for his Academy Award-nominated screenplay of The Motorcycle Diaries) serves up work that probably owes more to the North-American Beat movement than to the Latin-American Boom, as often what his prose evokes is far more important than what it directly communicates—a state of affairs particularly salient to Gabriela’s internal landscape, where real meaning lies beyond simple actuality. “Everyone dreams,” she says. “It’s only human”—but these dreams are the moon’s report to you as a witness of your life, a report given so that humans have a chance in this desert of a world.

It is almost surprising that MOLAA had never featured a play, as the sculpture garden, with its concrete stage and plethora of good seating (with heat lamps!), seems custom-made for such an endeavor. Another near-surprise is the choice of Dali for its inaugural production, as the nationality of the author (Puerto Rican) is the only real Latin-American tie-in. Yes, Gabriela, Benito, and Martin are Latino, but this fact is completely irrelevant to the story.  (Of course there’s no reason Latino characters must be featured dealing with Latino issues; the play certainly doesn’t suffer because these do not.)

What is not at all surprising is the quality of the acting, as Alive Theatre’s most consistent achievement to date is casting the talent to the role. Here, the cat-coyote pair of Alexis Ehrman and Anderson William execute their supporting turns with the vigor of leads, while Ali Sohaili (Martin) steals just about every scene he’s in. Meanwhile, Angela Lopez’s Gabriela is just as believable when she treads the realm of the incredible as when she is confronting the harsh light of day. But perhaps most impressive Angel Correa, who plays each side of his dual role as Benito and the moon expertly enough to make your suspension of disbelief easy, by turns funny and pathetic, crude and debonair, overheated and cold. Beyond their individual achievements, the cast as a whole gels perfectly, properly bringing to life a script that could easily get lost in translation. Clearly much credit here goes to Xiomara Cornejo, whose strong direction also comes through in the blocking and rhythmic interplay of the actors.

It is a shame that Alive Theatre’s References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot at MOLAA will be performed only once more (tonight, 8 p.m.), as it is hard to imagine the combination of the script, venue, and execution not winning enough good buzz to make for a strong run. But there’s not much that’s conventional about the production, so why should this any be different?

For more information, visit or Tickets are $20-30.


"Barstow sizzles in Long Beach with a 'Hot' play"
By John Farrell

Angela Lopez is Army wife Gabriela in "References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot," playing at the Museum of Latin American Art.

Barstow is a city you just can't avoid, hard as you may try.

When you drive to Las Vegas, you have to go through the desert outpost, and you probably have to get gas or use the facilities. You stop because you know there is a lot of desert going east or west.

In the sunlight, there is little to recommend the place. In the moonlight, everything is still the same, just darker.

It's not a place where you'd expect to find house cats romancing hungry, but attractive, coyotes. You'd be surprised to meet the moon there, dressed in a white suit and making casual conversation.

In Jose Rivera's Barstow, though, that's exactly what you discover.

Alive Theatre, the year-old Long Beach troupe that produces plays in unusual places, has turned the sculpture garden at the Museum of Latin American Art into Barstow (without the truck stops) for two performances of Rivera's darkly comic "References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot."

The first performance was March 29. A repeat performance, scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, is something you don't want to miss if you like intriguing theater or if you just enjoy sitting outdoors at night in a lovely setting.

One caution: MOLAA is less than a mile from the ocean and it will be cold outdoors, even with the space heaters going full force. Dress accordingly.

"Dali" takes place partly in the mind and partly in the life of Gabriela (Angela Lopez), a young Army wife who lives in Barstow, where her husband, Benito (Angel Correa), is stationed when not serving in Iraq.

Since Benito has been gone, Gabriela has not slept indoors, preferring a mattress in their yard and her fantasies, which include a visit by the dapper Moon (also played by Correa). Her cat (Alexis Ehrman) is involved in a romance with the Coyote (Anderson William). And there is the teenage neighbor boy, Martin (Ali Sohaili in a wonderfully comic turn), who wants to lose his virginity to her.

Gabriela has been having surreal visions, including conversations with the moon, but she has to face the reality of her husband's return from war: He wants their relationship to start up just where it left off; she wants time to get to know him again, and to find a life for herself that is more than just waiting for him to return from his duties.

He is a Puerto Rican who wants his 20years in the Army (he's at year 11 now) to give him financial security. She wants more to life than postings in Barstow for the desert warfare training nearby, and years in Germany where she can't speak the language.

Lopez is a wonderfully sympathetic young woman trying to find her life, just like so many Army wives. Correa is slick and sly as the moon, realistic and bewildered as the young soldier whose wife doesn't quite know him.

Ehrman is a black cat who is willing to take a chance on love and William is a torn-jeaned biker of a coyote who is attractive and dangerous by turns.

Sohaili is as boastful and eager as any teenager in lust, hugely funny and just a touch pathetic.

Director Xiomara Cornejo uses the space - a stage set in the museum's dramatic garden - to energetic effect. She uses the simple sets created by designer Jeremy Aluma and the costumes of Bethany Deals to create a dream world and to suggest the other world of Army poverty.

It's an intriguing play with a lot to say about a world, a real world, that most of us don't think about but which is part of our military commitment and the sacrifices it calls for.

Friday's performance begins at 8 p.m., preceded at 7 by a reception for playwright Rivera, who will be receiving the museum's Black Sun award.

John Farrell is a Long Beach freelance writer. More of his articles can be read at


What: Play by Jose Rivera, presented by Alive Theatre.

When: 8 p.m. Friday; reception at 7 p.m.

Where: Sculpture Garden, Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach.

Tickets: $30, which includes the reception.

Information: (562) 508-1788,

Our rating: Four stars


"References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot"
By Shirlie Gottlieb

If you've read "100 Years of Solitude" (or any other outstanding work by  the award-winning author, Gabriel Garcia
Marquez), you're familiar with  Magic Realism.
A unique genre of Latin American  literature, it weaves the fantasy dream-world in and out of the real world  so seamlessly, the two co-exist in the same time  frame.
Puerto Rican playwright, Jose Rivera, knows this  territory well.  A student of Marquez' at the Sundance Institute, he wrote  the screenplay for "The Motorcycle Diaries" and "References to  Salvador Dali Make Me Hot," a gripping two-act drama, that premiered  several years ago at South Coast Repertory.
Last  Sunday, Alive Theatre presented a biting production of Rivera's play in  Long Beach at the Museum of Latin American Art.  Surrounded by cactus at  sundown, in MoLAA's beautiful outdoor Sculpture Garden, this collaboration  was a stroke of genius.
Not only are Rivera's main  characters two displaced Puerto Ricans, his biting fantasy is set in the  desert landscape of
Barstow, California.
It is there  that Gabriela, a lonely young army wife, goes out of her mind waiting for  her husband to come home from the Gulf War.  Angela Lopez is totally  convincing as the beautiful, smoldering, under-educated Latina, who can't  stand the oppressive void of her existence.
She tries  to better herself by taking classes, and has a menial part-time job at a  local discount store, but hours of emptiness in this isolated location take  a heavy toll on her.
Alone at the end of each day,  Gabriela falls under the spell of the hypnotic moon (the smooth-talking  Angel Correa), while her spoiled house cat (Alexis Ehrman) has a dangerous  tryst with a wild Coyote (Anderson William) that almost kills it.   Adding to the magic of the moon light, the haunting music of Christopher  Swanson's violin floats in the air.
When Gabriela's  macho husband comes home on furlough, he is horny as hell.  Away for a  year in some God forsaken post, Benito (played with a strong, authoritative  presence by Correa) wants a lot of sex to make up for the time he's been  away.
Already committed to nine more years in the army  before his discharge and pension, there are nine more years in Germany or  the  desert.  Nine more years of separation and emptiness for  Gabriela.  Meanwhile, whenever he gets home for a few days, he expects his wife to put her classes on hold and be at his beck and call.  Isn't that what every good Latin wife is supposed to  do?
Gabriela is fed up.  Why must they live this  way?  Benito has become a mystery to her.  She knows what dreams  she has when she looks at the moon, but what does her husband dream  about?
Act II explores their painful  predicament.  Yes, they still feel animal lust for each other, but  like the dangerous rhythm of the tango, Gabriela and Benito dance around  each other with alternating bouts of passion and violent anger.  Will  they make it?  Can the magic rays of the moon pull them back  together?   Xiomara Conejo directs this tense, exotic drama  which is both poetic and hot-blooded.
A second  production of "Reflections on Salvador Dali Make Me Hot" will take place on  Friday, April 10, at 8:00.
The Alive Theatre performance will be preceded  by a special 7:00 pm reception.  The playwright, himself, will be  present to receive MoLAA's Black Swan Award for his contribution to Latin  American culture.
Tickets to both reception and  performance are $30.

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