Love, sex, rhythm; more sex and some dancing; some Gaga. More Gaga. A jukebox-style montage of performance and social politics, and buried beneath it all, a fairly poignant question — what happens when the community you call home, one built on sex (and rhythm), no longer welcomes you inside?
Ballet Teatro Internacional’s production of Martin: Love, Sex, & Rhythm, created and written by Alvaro Maldonado, and directed by Jacamiah Ybanez, tackles some deeply important questions but too-often stumbles to express them. And it struggles visibly to get there, reaching perhaps a bit too wide in the process — part dance show, part cabaret, part soap opera family drama for the Grinder age.
It tackles HIV/AIDS, drug use, and the new-found perils of marriage and monogamy in the queer circles now struggling to navigate them. A few too many undercurrents — the typical growing pains of a still-developing piece. Too frequently the production felt strained, struggling to get through to the next song or dance (more Gaga), making the project feel a bit like a CD that was skipping.
But those moments of dance, collectively, did much to make up for it. The choreography, by Maldonado and Zac Norton (both of whom are company members), is artful and ambitious, and brilliantly executed by an extraordinarily talented dance team. And where this piece stumbles as a play, traditionally understood, it succeeds as a community-oriented, physically-expressed exclamation of the shifting joys and challenges facing the gay community in a post-DOMA world — a community that still struggles to reconcile a sexually-liberated past with a picket fence-future.
Martin: Love, Sex & Rhythm
by Alvaro Maldonado
at Lang – Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Details and tickets
The play, much like the issues it struggles to represent, ends with a far-from-satisfying conclusion. But perhaps it’s better without one. The element of this piece that stands out most — more so, even, than the dancing — is the lingering sense of the real. That these issues are personal; that they are close and well known. Both by the company and the audience which was there on opening night.
This is something more than a play, in that sense. It’s a fumbling, grasping attempt to chronicle and find meaning in a community that’s been changing faster than you can say Prop 8—and to define the still unknown ramifications it all will bring.