Explicit production explores common relationship issues

Miriam Arghandiwal

A mind-twisting drama that confuses dreams with reality will heat up the stage at Sacramento State’s Playwrights’ Theater this weekend in a production of an award winning playwright, José Rivera’s “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot.”

Directed by theater and dance professor Manuel Pickett, “References to Salvador Dali Make Me Hot” is a play about the struggles of a young woman, Gabriella, and her husband, Benito.

Benito is a solider who travels often, moving from place to place with Gabriella at his side. The constant moving becomes a drag to Gabriella because she cannot fulfill her desire to pursue her own dreams.

In the play, the couple is relocated to the desert where Gabriella spends much of her time alone while Benito is off fighting. She is left alone with her own thoughts and the incessant fear for her husband’s well-being.

During her time alone in the desert, her surroundings come to life. These surroundings include coyotes, cacti, her cat and the moon.

“It’s almost like cabin fever. These things are her only company and they have begun to communicate with her and she begins to believe she has become insane,” Pickett said.

Pickett said the production falls into a magic realism genre.

“Magic realism is what happens when you take a realistic situation, one that can be universally understood and then mix it with surrealistic situations or out of the ordinary things, the mixture helps define reality to a further state,” he said.

Pickett said one surrealistic instance in the play is when the coyote and the cat argue with each other.

They face different forms of the same problems Gabriella and Benito face. The alternative form of argumentation offers the audience a different light in which they can examine and interpret Gabriella and Benito’s struggles, he said.

Pickett said the dreams are unrealistic but the subject of each dream is very real to Gabriella.

John Dryden, Sac State alumnus who plays Benito in the play, said one of his favorite scenes is when the moon talks about a painting that reflects Gabriella’s and Benito’s problems.

“There’s a part where the moon references a painting of two pieces of bread that are ripped away from each other. The painting reflects Benito and Gabriella because they too are being ripped away from each other due to their different desires,” Dryden said.

The most difficult part of the play, Pickett said, was the analysis needed for the script. The cast spent hours stopping at various scenes and discussing what exactly was going on and what it meant, he said.

Bringing to life the relationship between reality and illusions, and getting the actors to do the same, was a challenging aspect of the play, Pickett said.

Another challenging part of the play was its promiscuity.

Despite all the struggles the actors face, Pickett said, the most difficult aspect to adjust to was the nudity.

“Our actors range from 18 to 24 years old, so for some students it’s their first time exposing themselves on stage like that,” Pickett said.

Dryden said the nudity was not an issue for him because he tries to put himself aside while getting into character.

“I focus on telling a character story and think of them as a real person with real thoughts. For the character, nervousness doesn’t exist because an audience doesn’t exist so I push that aside for me,” he said.

Stage manager and sophomore theater major Christa Kinch said the play will twist the audience’s mind.

“You won’t know what’s a dream and what’s reality at one point, you have to pay attention and in the end it comes together brilliantly,” Kinch said.

Pickett said the play encourages students not to be afraid of their own imagination. It also brings them to understand that intelligence is the exercise of perception, he said.

Miriam Arghandiwal can be reached at [email protected]