References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot at Single Carrot Theatre reviewed by Cara Ober

On a hot night in Barstow, California, a coyote attempts to seduce a house cat and a lonely housewife smooches with the full moon. “You have very soft lips,” she tells him, “for a celestial object,” garnering a burst of laughter from the audience.

Meanwhile, it’s unclear whether the salacious wooing bestowed upon Cat (Heather Peacock) will result in a wild night of amazing sex (despite her being ‘fixed’), or being eaten by the bawdy Coyote (Nathan Fulton) – or both. Either way, their sexual energy is electric around a tantalizing quarrel over notions of wild vs. tame. Can you be fully alive when you follow the rules of human relationships or is it better to embrace your inner animal and live an authentic life of blood and roaming?

The subtle glow of the moon, howling of coyotes, and simplicity of the set all add up to a cohesive suspension-of-disbelief that sets a strong tone for the play, one full of passion and bittersweet sentiments. Under Director Steven J. Satta’s subtle hand, the plot unfolds in a dreamlike dance of poetic and comic language.

Set against the backdrop of the Mojave Desert, a quintessentially wild place, Gabriela (Jessica Garrett) sits out back in her lawn chair night after night. She is convinced the trees are moving nearer to the house, that the desert is closing in on her. She has been waiting for months for Benito (Kaveh Haerian), her husband, to return from military exercises in the desert. His return is scheduled for tomorrow and she isn’t sure how she feels about it. Their marriage has been off for some time, but she’s not quite sure what is wrong or whose fault it is.

As Gabriela has taken to sleeping outside in a lawn chair, she has struck up a romance with the moon, also played by Haerian. In addition, Martin (Sam Hayder), a teenaged neighbor, has developed a crush on Gabriela, so despite her loneliness and longing for her husband, it’s humorous to watch the moon climb down from the sky and get into a scuffle with a teenaged boy over her affections.

As the night comes to an end and she realizes her cat is missing, Gabriela muses that the mystery of life is “not the moon – it’s in the brain of the person sleeping next to you.” She changes out of sweatpants into jean shorts to welcome her husband home, but they end up squabbling about why there’s no milk in the fridge before any connection can blossom.

Through a back and forth exchange that veers from funny to sad, romantic to annoying, Gabriela and Benito attempt to negotiate their current relationship and the audience learns about their passionate teenaged romance, about Benito’s decision to join the army for economic reasons, and the effect of the war in Iraq and consequent deployments on his personality and their marital bond.

Although their situation is unique, the issues behind their fighting – distance, disappointment in one another, fear that the other person has changed and not held up their end of the marriage contract – are universally potent. Life changes us; our relationships, especially with our significant other, must change with it. Is it better to protect the one you love from these changes or to be completely honest, despite the sins that have been committed? Can a marriage reconcile months of separation, war wounds, painful compromises, and depression?

With language that manages to be both poetic and down to earth, José Rivera’s dialogue takes the audience on a journey that is uncomfortably personal, uncompromisingly passionate, and incredibly frustrating. Peppered with moments of magical realism and humor, and convincingly embodied by Single Carrot’s cast, References to Salvador Dalí Make Me Hot is a wild ride full of unexpected moments of tenderness, confusion, and anger that manages to bridge the gap between art and life without falling too heavily on either side of the divide.

For anyone who has ever attempted to really love and understand another human being, this play will enrich your appreciation for this worthwhile, yet endlessly futile, endeavor.

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References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot By José Rivera at Single Carrot Theatre
Directed by Steven J. Satta
Running January 9- February 8, 2015.
Click here for tickets and more information.

Author Cara Ober is Founding Editor at BmoreArt.