References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Benjamin Privitt

References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, by Jose Rivera, is a play about an American soldier who returns to his wife after being away a year fighting a war in the Middle East. Such a return is always a bit surreal and dreamlike for both the soldier and his or her spouse, and Rivera beautifully captures that unsteady ground in this drama now playing at downtown San Rafael’s Alter Theater.

While waiting her husband’s return from the war, Gabriela (Carla Pauli) has many questions. She even wonders about life while still in the womb: “In the womb do you see the moon and the stars?” she asks looking up at the desert night sky from her backyard in Barstow.

The moon is very important to her. In the year her husband has been gone, the moon (Marvin Greene) and her cat (Jeanette Harrison) are her only friends. She talks to them and, in this surreal play, they talk to her, even dance with her. “I’m a reflection of a reflection,” the moon says. “I’m a codependent satellite.”

But when Gabriela’s husband Benito (Matt Jones) returns from the war and life becomes complicated for the people he shines on, the moon questions his involvement: “I should never get involved with people. I should just watch.” And so he watches the tumultuous return as the audience watches. “It is not easy being in a marriage… when one of the partners is gone for long periods of time…” says director Wilma Bonet. The ‘home coming’ is always about trying to continue where you left off and getting to know each other again. To reclaim what was lost. There will always be things you won’t know about each other. Time apart has changed the way you view things. Life has happened and in order to keep your mind sane you start to question everything.”

Gabriela questions the war and why her husband should be part of it. “I don’t like to think of you as a killer,” she says. “I love my country,” Benito says. “I was in history. I defended a foreign country against naked aggression. I’m sorry I have two loves. I love you and the Army. The war didn’t change me. It changed you.” But the war has changed him. He has bad dreams at night. He questions some of the decisions he made, calling in air strikes as a forward observer.

Though they continue to argue, their opposite viewpoints eventually create a healing energy for both of them and the center of that healing is the moon. ”I like a man who stops to look at the moon,” Gabriela says to Benito. “Did you see the moon last night?” she asks like their very lives depend on his answer.

For tickets or more information about this excellent production call 415-454-2787 or visit www.altertheater.org.

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