Can art heal memories of abuse? Michelangelo Alasa's true story is performed by a cast of seven, who maneuver through an art installation. Passing through projections of feel-good musical numbers from films like West Side Story and clips of Marilyn Monroe, they tell what is was like to know Raphael (Facundo Rodriguez). The show is free. The author invites you to have drinks afterwards and gives you markers so you can leave your emotional reactions on the wall.
Starting in La Habana, Cuba, and moving to Union City, New Jersey, Raphael's family seems to have been kind to their son. But Mama (Lourdes Simon) had earlier lost a girl, resented her son, and was not pleased to find out he was gay. Papa, portrayed as a macho legend in La Habana, sexually abused his son. The pain of this experience, and moreover the feeling of helplessness which began when it ended, fuel Raphael's proud, campy adolescence. It is a an empowered, mature young Raphael who dates Joann (Julie Robles) and at least five other women at a time ("I was my own after school program") and, while captivating them, leaves no doubt to his "fag-hag" admirer Gerri (Cat Lippencott) that he likes men ("he talked about Paris, at age twelve!"). Even a priest, Father Richard (Mario Bosquez), who visits Raphael's home, has a questionable but passionate affair with him. Raphael's Brother (Sandor Juan) relates how he has come to accept and respect his brother more and more over the years, while a lover, Juan Carlos (Antonio Minino) gives some racy details. Seeing as Raphael has been loved by the same man for the last forty years, he is an example of a survivor looking for understanding. Michelangelo Alasa's projections are mesmerizing. His staging of the show in the round brings the brave actors close to everyone in the audience. His memorabilia from Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and others who suffered while inspiring the world is fascinating to see on the way in and out of the performance space. This review does not come close to how it feels to see the show, which is a challenging but constructive experience.