Salvador Dali was not an attractive man.
   With his pencil-thin, heavily waxed mustache and prominent, aquiline nose, he came across as the raffish love child of Cyrano de Bergerac and former Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Rollie Fingers.
But oh, his art … sexy, seductive, surreal … imbued with Freudian-inspired symbolism … now that’s hot. And so is the play References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot, opening at the Gilbert Theater on Jan. 29.
Based on the story by Jose Riviera — whom you may know better as the author of The Motorcycle Diaries — References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot blends the deliciously surreal with a story line that the local military and the spouses of those warriors can certainly identify with.
   {mosimage}Gabriele is a beautiful Latina woman in her sexual prime living in the high plains desert town of Barstow, Calif., with her husband Benito, a soldier who leaves her alone to fight in the first Gulf War; after returning to Gabriele he is called away for yet another tour of duty. Left alone, Gabriele finds herself lonesome and throwing off hormones like a nuclear plant venting radioactive steam.
Her passion is so palpable that both human and non-humans — and even celestial bodies — fall for her body. Among the characters who seek to woo this dark-haired moon goddess are a coyote, a 14-year-old boy named Martin, and the moon itself.
Sound surreal enough for you so far?
   That’s the point, says Brooke Sullivan, who plays the oh-so-sensual Gabriele.
   “I think the way the play is written, it’s very surreal,” said Sullivan. “Marcella (Casals) is directing it in a way in which people might not always understand what’s going on, but I think that’s the point of the story.”
However, despite its dreamlike narrative, References is still accessible, says Director Casals … especially for residents — men and women — of a military town like Fayetteville.
   “Benito is in the Army and he’s been away in the Gulf War,” said Casals, who has most recently directed Assassins and Cabaret at the Gilbert. “And as soon as he gets back they send him back into the field. And it seems she’s always waiting for him. She wants him out and he has nine years to go until retirement. He loves what he does and is proud of what he does.
   “It’s very apropos for Fayetteville because we have so many of us who understand that very, very well,” said Casals. “So it’s really for everyone but I think the military will really identify with it ... both spouses .. I think everyone will identify with the struggle between the magic of love that we feel and the reality of everyday experiences ... and that it is a give and take and that fear that we are giving up too much to have this wonderful person and sometimes we don’t know where we begin and the other begins. There’s a line from the play where she says ‘how do I know if these are my thoughts that I’m thinking?’ She has a whole inner life ... she talks to the moon and to her cat and they talk to her.”
   The play is especially real for Will Moreno, who plays Benito. Moreno is an Army vet in real life; he is also starring in his very first play — a prospect nearly as daunting as facing a well dug-in enemy.
   “This is my first time on stage. I got a call that they needed a Hispanic man so I tried out for the part,” said Moreno. “I had no idea it was for one of the lead roles. My family is a little surprised but they’ve been very, very supportive.
   ”I think it’s very real,’ said Moreno. “I relate to my character because I’m a vet. I think military spouses will really be able to relate to the play.”
   The rest of the cast is rounded out by Rickie Jacobs as the moon, Teresa Dagaz as the cat, Steve Jones as the coyote, and newcomer  Manquillan Minnifee as Martin — the 14-year-old neighbor who lusts after      Gabriele (and, on a side note, Minnifee is Casals’ son).
   “This is a young, mostly inexperienced cast that’s really got a lot of energy and is really gelling well,” said Sullivan. “I can’t wait for opening night to get here.”
   Fair warning: This is not a family-friendly play. There is very strong language as well as the aforementioned all-pervading undercurrent of sexuality. Bring your imagination and sense of wonder but leave the kiddies at home.

Contact Tim Wilkins at


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