Editors' pick

Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas (Sex, Shame and Tears)

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Editorial Review

From Mexico, a philosophical sex farce
By Celia Wren
Thursday, February 21, 2013

Would that all houseguests provided as much entertainment value as Tomas, a character in Mexican playwright Antonio Serrano’s “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas (Sex, Shame and Tears).”

As amusingly channeled by actor Alex Alburqueque in Teatro de la Luna’s lively production of Serrano’s comedy, Tomas comes across -- initially -- as a good-humored clown. Arriving for an extended stay at a friend’s apartment, he capers balletically on the bed. He engages in satirical banter while ironing. And, when his friends organize a group meditation session, he sits dutifully in a cross-legged position but then pulls a mock-solemn face, jabbing the air with splayed fingers, as though he were a demented kung fu warrior. And yet Tomas turns out to harbor a dark streak of idealism, par for the course in this screwball and cheerfully ribald but rather philosophical piece.

A long-running hit in Mexico City and adapted into a successful Mexican film, “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas” begins with the ingredients of farce: two discontented married couples who live in adjoining apartments. When Tomas moves in with the introverted writer Carlos (Alfredo Sanchez) and Carlos’s sexually voracious wife, Ana (Yovinca Arredondo Justiniano), things start to get complicated. When a houseguest also lands on the unhappy menage next door, things get really complicated, and battle is once again joined in the age-old war of the sexes.

For the Teatro de la Luna production, performed in Spanish with English surtitles, director Mario Marcel has devised a simple set: mattresses, chairs, tables and door frames, representing adjoining apartments, with a vista of urban high-rises in the background. The setup is roomy enough for the characters’ antics, such as Ana’s pole-dance-style shimmying, as she attempts to lure Carlos to bed; or the capering conga line the female characters form as they search for a bottle of tequila. The conga line sequence takes place after the characters, fed up with lust and romance, have turned the apartments into celibate, gender-segregated, quasi-monastic communities, with predictable frustration for all.

Arredondo brings engaging feistiness to the character of Ana, first seen in tight lavender pants and a midriff-exposing top. (Silvana Fierro, Nucky Walder and Rosa Becker designed the costumes and props.) Marcela Ferlito Walder manifests the simmering resentment and long-buried pain inside Andrea, who lives next door to Carlos and Ana. Juan Pablo Vacatello highlights the stuffiness of Miguel, Andrea’s husband, and Liliya Ilnitsky displays aplomb as Maria, a visiting zoologist.

Sanchez emphasizes the brooding awkwardness of Carlos, who muses, at one point: “Nothing we encounter satisfies us. Nothing we encounter is sufficient. It merely lasts for a few moments and then leaves.” (David Bradley translated the script into English for the surtitles.)

Carlos doesn’t have the monopoly on deep thinking in this play: Other characters also speculate about the meaning of life, the nature of intimacy and the dynamics of the male-
female power struggle. If you’re in the market for a thinking person’s sex comedy, “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas” is certainly an option.

Would that all houseguests provided as much entertainment value as Tomas, a character in Mexican playwright Antonio Serrano’s “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas (Sex, Shame and Tears).”

As amusingly channeled by actor Alex Alburqueque, in Teatro de la Luna’s lively production of Serrano’s comedy, Tomas comes across -- initially -- as a good-humored clown. Arriving for an extended stay at a friend’s apartment, he proceeds to caper balletically on the bed. He engages in satirical banter while ironing. And, when his friends organize a group meditation session, he sits dutifully in a cross-legged position -- but then pulls a mock-solemn face, jabbing the air with splayed fingers, as if he were a demented kung fu warrior. And yet, Tomas turns out to harbor a dark streak of idealism -- par for the course in this screwball and cheerfully ribald but rather philosophical piece.

A long-running hit in Mexico City, adapted into a successful Mexican film, “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas” begins with the ingredients of farce: two discontented married couples who live in adjoining apartments. When Tomas moves in with the introverted writer Carlos (Alfredo Sanchez) and Carlos’s sexually voracious wife, Ana (Yovinca Arredondo Justiniano), things start to get complicated. When a houseguest also lands on the unhappy ménage next door, things get really complicated -- and battle is once again joined in the age-old war of the sexes.

For the Teatro de la Luna production, performed in Spanish with English subtitles, director Mario Marcel has devised a simple set: mattresses, chairs, tables and door frames, representing adjoining apartments, with a vista of urban high-rises in the background. The set-up is roomy enough for the characters’ antics -- such as Ana’s pole-dance-style shimmying, as she attempts to lure Carlos to bed; or the capering conga line the female characters form as they search for a bottle of tequila. The conga line sequence takes place after the characters, fed up with lust and romance, have turned the apartments into celibate, gender-segregated, quasi-monastic communities--with predictable frustration for all.

Arredondo brings engaging feistiness to the character of Ana, first seen in tight lavender pants and a midriff-exposing top. (Silvana Fierro, Nucky Walder and Rosa Becker designed the costumes and props.) Marcela Ferlito Walder manifests the simmering resentment and long-buried pain inside Andrea, who lives next door to Carlos and Ana. Juan Pablo Vacatello highlights the stuffiness of Miguel, Andrea’s husband, and Liliya Ilnitsky displays aplomb as Maria, a visiting zoologist.

Sanchez emphasizes the brooding awkwardness of Carlos, who muses, at one point, “Nothing we encounter satisfies us. Nothing we encounter is sufficient. It merely lasts for a few moments and then leaves.” (David Bradley translated the script into English for the supertitles.)

Carlos doesn’t have the monopoly on deep thinking in this play: Other characters also speculate about the meaning of life, the nature of intimacy, and the dynamics of the male-female power struggle. If you’re in the market for a thinking person’s sex comedy, “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas” is certainly an option