The African American Performing Arts Community Theatre has opened its new season with a heartwarming look at the age-old question: What’s up with men and women?
The Male/Female Thing, written by Manny Diez, explores the gamesmanship between men and women as couples try to protect themselves from the pangs of dating and falling in love.
Each actor plays several characters in the 90-minute production. Diaz said the audience won’t be confused; the actors spent the summer honing their skills to make sure they embody their distinct characters. The storyline has smooth transitions that allow the audience to follow along, he said.
The production looks at the on-again off-again relationship and asks whether a one-night stand can be one night with a coworker. It looks at the lack of love because of internal struggles. And it looks at a marriage that has fizzled. It asks: Are we all just acting to get what we want? Who is real?
It poses the question: If you had the power to take away things about your partner that make the relationship complicated what would you eliminate?
Harrell said he decided to open the season with The Male/Female Thing because the play didn’t call for a large cast or set design. He liked this piece also because it was a little edgy.
“For a smaller theater company, I think it’s important to look for plays that have an impact but don’t call for large budgets,” said Harrell, who started AAPACT in 1998.
Harrell pointed out that the playwright called for the setting to be a bare stage. The minimal setting emphasizes the bareness that couples can feel as they work through relationships. Some of the characters such as Frank, played by Diaz, and Marcie, played by Hart, have to cope with their pain as they struggle with the loss of a child and its effect on their marriage.
Diaz said he enjoys the bare stage and black box theater experience because it allows him to connect with his vulnerabilities that his multiple roles call for.
Hart, who plays two other characters (Felicia and Linda), said the play has elements of playfulness, sexual frustration and desire for companionship.
“The audience will see the unique workings of the subtle games men and women play,” he said.
Hart points out that the play has interactive elements intertwined within the production; she hopes the audience will be pleasantly surprised. LaFrance’s character, Pete, and Maxwell’s character, Suzi, come out into the audience and have a whimsical time with the basics of love and building a relationship.
LaFrance plays the characters Pete, Mark and Rodney, who is coming to terms with his own sexuality as he watches the heterosexual couples in his life struggle to make sense of their relationships.
“As much as every character is different, they are really all the same,” said LaFrance. “They all want love, they all have insecurities, they all have strengths.”
Rodney’s lack of love brings him great loneliness, but he finds solace in being, at times, a sidekick to Edgar and Felicia, played by Diaz and Hart.
Maxwell points out that the play is laced with symbolism. In one part of the story, the character, Marcie, loses her dog, which is killed in a car accident. That, said Maxwell, is symbolic of the loss we all feel when letting go of our myths and misconceptions of what we think love and relationships are supposed to be.
The play doesn’t have the secret to relationships, but it does offer a stripped down look at the power struggle and jockeying for position that often come with modern day pairings.
“After seeing the play, you’re either going to totally agree with the games people play or say no, the relationship is not like that at all,” Maxwell said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Male/Female Thing
WHEN: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, through Sept. 26
WHERE: African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, 6161 NW 22nd Ave., Liberty City, Miami.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call 305-456-0287 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.