VIRGO STAR heroically encapsulates the convergence of queer and cowboy in a homoerotic, fictionalized “Wild West”. The Pioneers Go East Collective interrogates the notion of “masculinity” as personified by American Cowboy iconography, visuality and sound. But this is a new riff on the spaghetti western – as the characters come face to face with their fragility, sense of belonging and rigors of their own nature in this steamy wild, wild west conjured by director Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte.
This is no unrequited Brokeback Mountain love story but rather a fragmented “son of a gun stew” filled with every ingredient imaginable. They set out to debunk the “myth” of the masculine cowboy by exploring gender fluidity, same-sex intimacy and subverting familiar imagery. I feel I received flashes of these things throughout the show – not entirely able to hold onto a cohesive narrative but rather a myriad of discourses and explorations triggered by the overarching theme. The space is evocative of an alternate reality full of secrets and passions with loud pink neon barrier lights framing an imagined, virile landscape that constantly transforms.The latter expertly designed by Philip Treviño who also created the lush, sensual lighting. The conversation between the two spaces was delicious and I would have liked to have seen more experimentation with the nexus of the “central” story i.e. more audience movement between the spaces – discovering the revelations behind the next corner.
I enjoyed songwriter Chris Riffles laid back country melodies and his silent voyeuristic presence. I would have liked to have heard more of his original work and seen it woven more comprehensively into the fabric of every scene. Sound designer, Gavin Price gave this world the perfect eerie, throbbing nightclub reality. The multi-media aspect of the show was strong and captivating from Agosto Machado early interview appearance to Hao Bai’s vivid video design and Jon Burklund’s virile cinematography. I would have almost liked to have seen more filmic inserts to give us chance to catch our breaths between the dancing and declaiming.
I found the monologues intriguing, especially Daniel Diaz’s opening one where we were encouraged to really listen to the story. Bree Breedan is a talented dancer with a magnetic presence who carried the physical/choreographic narrative through-line with commitment. Alessandro Magania as the “loner” cowboy brought just the right amount of sultry to the role – with effective posturing, posing and pouting. Anabella Lenzu brought the flamenco, the stamping and the seduction.Diaz took responsibility for the “fragility” in his character’s desperation for male bonding. Beth Graczyk’s choreography was volatile and pushed all the right buttons to create a kind of a feeding frenzy of desire and self expression.
However, for all the mini morsels and potential inherent in the subject matter, I feel the production is not fully realized as yet. Perhaps it is suffering from too many cooks in the collective, like you are watching many visions competing for attention. It is as if the multimedia, writing, choreography and original music are all competing for dominance of the space and in the end they wipe each other out so you are left with an emptiness of defining content. There are at least four different shows rolled into one – each requiring more meaty content to be truly filling. You can see there has been an extraordinary amount of work done in bringing this show to life but the glue is missing.
Running time is approximately 75 minutes.
VIRGO STAR runs from November 14 to December 1.
Purchase online at http://lamama.org or by calling 212-352-3101. A limited number of $10 tickets are available for each show.
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