Skin of Honey/Piel de Miel
Reviewed by Gray Palmer
Through June 25
What happens in Cuba when a flower of the Revolutionary Youth blooms as a lesbian? Trouble. Island trouble.
Odalys Nanin (writer, producer, director and star) revives her popular 2007 play, Skin of Honey/Piel de Miel, as an offering for the current Fringe. The play, a mixture of styles, includes elements of homecoming memoir, teen eroticism, trannie camp, passionate melodrama, violent thriller, and political provocation.
Amelia (Nanin), after nearly twenty years away, visits her native Cuba for a writers’ conference in 1980. In her hotel room she takes a phone call from Isabel (Katarina Radivojevic) and both of them say, “I haven’t forgotten.” So begins a weaving together of past and present erotic adventure.
As their past love is remembered (with Omnia Bixler as young Amelia and Alexandra Evankovich as young Isabel), the two adult women reunite and begin to work out a troubled plan for Isabel’s defection from the island. This plan is complicated (at the very least) by Isabel’s secret position: Since the age of fifteen, she has been Fidel Castro’s “top mistress.”
What a brew! The two women are joined by Yani (Andres Mejias Vallejos), a transgender man who dreams of sexual reassignment, who is pursued by a violent security officer, Captain Victor Rivera (Bayardo De Murguia). The other two male characters might be called Bad Daddy and Mad Daddy —- Fidel Castro himself (Eddy G. Munoz) and Amelia’s father (Dennis Delsing), a petty-bourgeois raving at having been looted of his property and future income: the black heart itself of revanchist politics.
Now as to the play’s political provocation: one might simply make the banal observation that violence against the homosexual other is not a specifically socialist phenomenon.
But why shouldn’t Nanin express partisan politics through the shorthand figures of erotic melodrama? Why shouldn’t she steal the island’s flower away from Fidel? She is free and she’s very amusing. So is her company.
But in the present time of Nanin’s play, 1980, in the real world, real Amelias and Isabels in the U.S. were free to join their sisters-in-struggle, gathering in a movement at the height of the AIDS epidemic. And soon after the time of the play, one of them might carry a real placard, and over the caption “Murderer,” there would be, deservedly, a cartoon portrait of Reagan.
Macha Theatre/Films, 1107 N. Kings Rd., West Hollywood, http://hff16.org/3769, through June 25. Running time: one hour and 20 minutes with an intermission.