Slowly, the light fades in, revealing the Moon, dressed in white tuxedo and wearing whiteface, sitting atop an ancient, battered refrigerator, playing a plaintive melody on a violin as sad and sweet as a young girl’s first crush.
   Somewhere, as if from the bottom of a deep, desert ravine, the Coyote wails and then makes an appearance, sniffing around, wearing a carnivorous smile and a derelict’s shabby clothes as he searches out the object of his affection — Cat — all dressed in black, hunkered seductively in a corner and purring away like God’s own house tabby.
   And so begins References To Salvador Dali Make Me Hot — a surreal, sexy, sublime stage adaptation of Jose Rivera’s play about a lonely, lusty and lustful woman living in the desert of Barstow, Calif., seemingly always awaiting the return of her warrior husband, a soldier in the United States Army who most recently fought in the first Gulf War. Thrown in to the mix are all of the aforementioned characters, plus a 14-year-old boy next door who is a walking, talking hand grenade of hormones.
   {mosimage}Thursday was opening night for References To Salavador Dali Make Me Hot at the Gilbert Theater, and if you’re looking to warm up the libido during these cold, February days, then this is the ticket. The production, directed by Marcella Casals, smolders like Valentino’s eyes on Valentine’s Day and shows off the talents of a largely inexperienced, yet talented, young cast.
   Gabriele (Brooke Sullivan) is the lady of the house, alone and bored in her desert domicile, wishing her soldier husband Benito (Will Moreno) would come home for good, forsaking his most demanding mistress, the United States Army.
   While she pines for Benito and a better life, the Moon (Rickie Jacobs) and the Boy (Manquillan Minniffee) pine desperately for her. As a subtext, the Coyote (Steve Jones) and the Cat (Teresa Dagaz) trade sexually-charged barbs as the audience tries to figure out whether the Coyote wants to make love to the Cat or simply make her a main course.
   As Gabriele, Sullivan is sex incarnate, strutting the stage in cutoffs and a tank top, driving even the klieg lights to distraction as she questions her place in the universe and whether or not she wants to remain faithfully wed to a man whose vocation she hates — a vocation that has dragged her from Germany to the doorstep of Death Valley. Sullivan possesses a sultriness far beyond her years.
   Moreno is excellent as Benito. As Gabriele’s by-the-field manual husband, he puts honor and duty first, and the love for his woman a sloppy second. This is Moreno’s first ever appearance on a stage and he gives the play’s strongest performance, pitch perfect as a psychologically-wounded warrior confused by his wife’s constant questioning of his chosen career. Future directors looking for a male lead in an upcoming production should drop this publication and run to Moreno’s dressing room door ... like RIGHT NOW.  He’s that good.
   Minniffee is also a standout as the teenager from next door who wants Gabriele to both take him seriously as a man and take his virginity.
   Hell, all the characters are great. Jacobs makes a perfectly “inconstant” moon, while community theater vets Jones and Dagaz are superbly animalistic as their cat and canine alter egos.
   The dialogue is as beautiful as the desert set in spare.
   The story — the seemingly never ending wait by spouses for their soldier husbands and wives to come home — is particularly poignant in a military town such as Fayetteville.
   And don’t worry about venturing out into the February chill — this reference to Salvador Dali will definitely make you hot.

Contact Tim Wilkins at 

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