Sex on the Beach
nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
May 20, 2011
I once was told, “Don't have sex on the beach or you'll get sand in your ears.” That joke stayed with me and is what caught my interest in seeing Roy Arias's new play about prostitution in Latin America. When I entered the theater, I was immediately transported to another world and was excited to see how the evening would unfold.
Arias bursts onto the stage as a drag queen named La Caramelo. She is a veteran and admits that the oldest profession alive has taken its toll on her. She is witty, sassy, and confident. But as her story unfolds we quickly learn that she has a heart that has been broken by family, lovers, and friends. Arias's portrayal is both comical and poignant.
Throughout the evening, it is clear that Arias, author and actor, is catering to a Latin demographic. As such there are numerous times when Spanish references are used. Most of the audience got these “inside jokes,” but I did not and was wondering if any of the other audience members felt this way. Arias's heavy accent and infusion of Spanish words and humor made me feel left out at times. It felt like I was at a great party where everyone was in on the joke, except me. This made it difficult to completely engage in his story. In essence, I was an outsider looking in.
Next, Arias plays a “Macho Man,” Brazo E. Nino, who is gay for pay. Again, Arias's use of language inhibited me from fully engaging in this man's story. Brazo is supposed to appear to be “straight” as he has a wife and only sleeps with tourist men as a financially beneficial arrangement. However, Arias is too flamboyant to be believable and some of La Caramelo's nuances creep in. Usually, I find that actors don't bring enough physical life to their work, but this time Arias was so alive in his body that it became distracting and made it hard to follow his story. He would clap as a character choice to highlight certain moments, but it was very disconnected and deflated the impact of the story.
Unfortunately, this held true for his last performance as Esperanza, a classy madam who prostitutes out of necessity to feed her child. Esperanza is a dentist-turned-call-girl. Arias breaks up her story so much by taking heavy breaths and pauses, that it lacks continuity and focus. Arias repeats himself a lot. Perhaps he could streamline their stories in a revision, which would help us follow him on his journey.
Sex on the Beach has the potential to be extremely moving and could create a great social awareness about prostitutes in Latin America. Sadly, it is not there yet and left me disappointed.