Guillermo Reyes' Men On The Verge Of A His-Panic Breakdown, which began previews March 11, has been packing in the crowds ever since at Off-Broadway's 47th Street Theatre.
The show won the 1997 Outer Critics Circle Award for Solo Performance and will play its 100th performance Saturday, June 28. Also, on June 6, Arizona Theatre Company announced that playwright Reyes' A Southern Christmas won their Third Annual National Hispanic Playwriting Contest (see story: Reyes Wins National Hispanic Playwrighting Contest).
As for Breakdown, six unique, fast-talking and dynamic characters -- all gay and Hispanic -- comprise Reyes' comedy, which has been performed by Felix A. Pire since its inception in Los Angeles in 1994.
Joseph Megel directs the solo show, which, according to producer Frances Hill, "examines gay Hispanic identity [through] an astonishingly gifted and charismatic young actor."
According to Pire, the show centers on the gay-immigrant experience, but its issues are more about immigrant struggles than gay themes. "It's about people who feel alienated, outside the norm," Pire told Playbill On Line. "The characters are high-strung , fast-paced neurotic people such as the one who carries us through the play, Federico. He's a young, naive Latino immigrant knocking on the doors of people who said they'd help him out once he got to this country. Of course, now that he's here... Anyway, Federico lands in L.A. -- on the day of the riots. But he thinks it's a big Hollywood movie set. Another character came to Los Angeles to be an actor and changed his name from Eduardo Troncos to Edward Thornhill III to get parts. The first role he gets, they want a Latino -- and they're worried he's not Hispanic enough." Other, more serious roles include a West Village kept-boy being kicked out by his sugar daddy, and a high strung ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher who peppers his teaching of immigrants (audience members) with thinly veiled insults. "I have a good sensibility for Reyes' cadences," said Pire of his part. "Men On The Verge is a combination of my characterizations and sensibility and timing, and morphing from one character to another, with the words, the story and funniness of Reyes."
Pire, by the way, will perform at the Gay Pride Rally in mid-town Manhattan's Bryant Park, June 22.
Asked about resemblances to such performers as John Leguizamo and Culture Clash (of Radio Mambo fame), Pire said, "Leguizamo hasn't really done gay people. Men looks at an alternative-alternative- alternative group of people, a very narrow margin of society. As a performer, my influences and inspirations are more Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg."
Reyes, a native of Santiago Chile, won two Ovation Awards for His Panic Breakdown, and his play, Chilean Holiday was produced at the Actors Theatre Of Louisville's 1996 Humana Festival. Sets for Breakdown are by George Xenos and Jeff Cowey, costumes by Leonard Pollacks, lighting by Jeff Nellis, and sound by Jonna Doty.
Playwrights Preview Productions is presenting the piece, which was workshopped at PPP in fall 1996. Over its 14-year history, PPP has presented 50 shows and over 500 readings and workshops. They're currently represented Off-Broadway by Bruce Graham's Minor Demons at the brand-new Century Theatre on East 15th St.
For tickets ($30) and information on Men On The Verge Of A His-Panic Breakdown, which opened March 19 and is scheduled for an open run, call (212) 265-1086. To quote Pire once more: "It's a big cotton candy, and at the center is a tootsie roll of commentary that is substantive and socially satirical."
--By David Lefkowitz