By Diane Johnson
Dramatic, provocative and poignant Casa Valentina is an eye opener into a secret world.
Written by the brilliant Harvey Fierstein, Casa Valentina is a sophisticated combination of humor and drama. Nominated for a Tony, Drama League and Outer Circle Best Play, this Waterfront Playhouse production is a winner in every sense of the word.
Casa Valentina is not just another play about men dressing up like women. Based on a true story, the show is multilayered and full of inner conflicts as it highlights the clash between societal expectations and the rainbow of human sexuality. What is intriguing is how these heterosexual men dared to dress as women in pearls and heels. Considering the laws and social norms in the early 60’s, they had to be terrified of being found out. Normal families were traditional with men carrying the burden of making a living. Dressing up as women relieved some of those stresses of daily life. It also gave them an opportunity to escape and step into another role. Fifty years ago men were not supposed to cry, let alone encouraged to show the gentler side of their emotions. Back then, boys were expected to be strong and smart and all girls had to do was be pretty.
Murphy Davis skillfully directs the nine-member cast as they morph into the women they want to be. Each player represents a different facet of American culture, from the military man to the corporate executive and everything in between. Thanks to the talent of Christopher Peterson, the costumes and wigs are picture perfect for both the times and the characters.
It’s a pleasure to see Danny Weathers back on stage. Danny shines in his role as Charlotte, strutting his stuff in a suit and heels. His superior attitude and tone of voice perfectly depict her as the power hungry manipulator. Matt Hollis Hulsey thoroughly enjoyed himself as Gloria all decked out in a golden orange satin dress, swinging his hips to the song “Please Mr. Postman”. Brandon Beach plays the complicated George and Valentina married to the lovely Rita, portrayed by George Dibraud. Their lives are turned upside down one weekend when Charlotte visits their resort in the Catskills. The interplay between the couple runs the gamut of emotions from support and acceptance to anger and disappointment. Bob Bowersox is terrific in his role as the Judge and Amy. Bob’s character represents the emergence of homosexuality and its impact on the traditional family. Luis Febo is fabulous as Bessie, a flamboyant character who knows her Oscar Wilde. William Meyer plays Terry, a mild mannered individual who takes charge when the need arises. Quincy Perkins portrays the tortured soul of Jonathan and Miranda. His acting was impressive, as every inch of his being became those characters. Mary T. O’Connor is Eleanor, the angry daughter, ashamed of her father’s behavior.
Casa Valentina is playing at the Waterfront Playhouse now through January 9th. For tickets call the box office at: (305) 294-5015 or on line at: https://www.waterfrontplayhouse.org
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