NUNN'S THEATER HABIT
Varones visits Fantasy Nightclub this May
Sat. May 1, 2021 12:00 AM
by Jerry Nunn
Brush up on your Spanish speaking skills to see the latest show at Fantasy Nightclub, 3641 N. Halsted Street, running now through May 23. Varones is a new play presented by the Aladerri Theatre Company almost completely in Spanish with a little Spanglish slang thrown in for good measure. It is a show strictly for adults and it is a requirement in the venue for patrons to be 21 years old or older.
Masks are enforced to enter and the entire cast has been vaccinated. A set, complete with some nice artwork, has been built in the front of Fantasy Nightclub to house the show creating an intimate performance space. This a bold move with most theaters in the Chicago area closed for a pandemic and the producers have opportunities to be even more cautious, such as having more of a cabaret style space with tables spaced apart, instead of the traditional rows of chairs in the audience. The bartender then could perform table service, as opposed to some crowding at the bar area during intermission. Varones is smartly offered in a virtual format if any of this is a concern to ticket holders.
The tale of Varones takes place, for the majority of the time, in a rehabilitation center for the LGBT community. Guests that stay there are locked in cages and padded cells while they are being treated. A doctor at the facility barks orders, misgenders people and attempts to change patients to a straight way of thinking by injections or whatever means is necessary.
The characters Rosario and Ricky are not ready to conform to the doctor's wishes and learn to be friends over time. To me, this was the heart of the story and we don't often get to see the gay and trans community interact with each other in a setting such as this. Battling it out about who has the most hardships is a contest that no one wins, but important for the world to see what many of the challenges of the LGBT community go through each day of their lives.
Varones has enough on its plate with just this storyline, but attempts to encorporate others into the piece as well. This is a lot to tackle and at times Varones is a bit too artsy for its own good. With some workshopping and tightening of the dialogue, the play really has some valuable things to say about treating others respectfully and with dignity.
Esteban Pantoja is a standout as Rosario and overall the cast is strong. The director Jose Burgos should work with them to define more peaks and valleys in the script. The doctor role should be a recorded voice over, that would then free Alejandro Gonzalez to make adjustments in the production. Moving the props and set could be performed by the cast instead of using a stage hand easily. The stage hand could then be in the booth to man the voice overs, fade the lighting cues, instead the abruptness it currently has, and play music to enhance the show.
Rename the show Rosario y Ricky, instead of Varones (males) and focus on that interesting story would be my advice. The end could have a better resolve where we find out the future of the two characters when they escape and a backstory of why the doctor is so evil would be valuable to the plot.
Overall, there are some strong performances worth seeing in a show that will be triggering to some. Varones is a valiant effort in a time where we all have time to improve ourselves and our art. Visit Aladerri.com for tickets and showtimes.