Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict opens with sexual antihero Raphael (portrayed by Facundo Rodriguez) standing in a projection of his own name followed by a cascade of iconic images, from stylized vintage dance portraits to Andy Warhol. The subtle distortion as the image overlays his neutral face and charismatic pectorals prevents the audience from losing track of Raphael. Instead, we’re challenged to see these works as they’re obfuscated by the young man, or perhaps as this young man sees them, reflecting himself.
The subtlest but most profound conflict of Confessions of a Cuban Sex Addict lies between Raphael’s projection of the people in his life and their presence. A word of caution to viewers, the stories in Confessions are real and may be shocking to some. Simultaneously, knowing that the characters confronting Raphael, the struggles facing him and the journey behind him are informed by the true stories of writer/director/producer Michelangelo Alasa’, the experience is voyeuristic and thrilling in a way that illusory theater often cannot emulate. Confessions is a treat for an adult audience who appreciate truth-seeking, an emotionally naked look at a skilled artist willing to expose both his greatest assets and most raw relationships.
As much as it opens with a cascade of imagery, the show is a series of distinct but related sensory experiences. It opens in the magnificent main stage of the Duo Multicultural Arts Center. The audience is moved during the show through a dim installation of trinkets from Raphael’s life and sexually warped scenes of domesticity, into an amazingly intimate performance space wherein powerful media imagery from the main character’s life is suspended on multiple mesh curtains in front of us. The effect of being surrounded by scenes of West Side Story and Funny Girl as Raphael obsesses about them imbues the whole piece with the thrilling and intrusive feeling of being inside the artist’s mind.
Therein lies the rub. Characters emerge to interact with Raphael as he sits in a womblike central chamber of scrim. They describe their experiences with him vividly, giving us insight into Raphael’s journey from Cuba to New Jersey to New York to here and now, but the audience quickly realizes that their testimonies to his devilish smile and unceasing charm are powered by the projections of the narrator they’re describing. As we can never truly know the thoughts or intentions of other people, neither can the internal monologues of the influential people in Raphael’s life be written down. Instead, the audience is invited to discern, balancing his perceptions, projections, and professions.
In this distance between the objective events in Raphael’s life and subjective understanding of his relationships is a fascinating portrait of a talented artist in all his secrets, exploits, ambition and triumph; an intimate confession indeed.
- Written by Shane Reader
Confessions reopens Monday evenings at Duo Multicultural Arts Center, November 5th – December 17th @ 9PM.