Nilo Cruz Explores the Pressure Cooker of Catholicism in his New Play

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Sensual pleasure copulating with rigid religious dogma is the driving force of Bathing in Moonlight, Nilo Cruz’ new play at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. 

Set in Miami, 2015, we meet three generations of women coping with life in the United States, while dreaming of their homeland, Cuba. Their hopes rest upon a young man named Taviano, son, brother, and uncle, who was absent for two years studying medicine. They hope that he will be their economic salvation. The parish priest has been supporting the three women, and there we begin the romantic plot of the story.

Veteran actress Priscilla Lopez is magnificent as Martina, the grandmother who from her first lines clearly establishes her increasing senility. Lost in the past, she embodies the typical dreamy lost soul we often found in the plays of Tennessee Williams. When she first meets her son, she believes him to be her husband. Only with great reluctance does she believe her family telling her that this is Taviano Junior, not Senior. As Taviano, television star Frankie Alvarez is the essence of handsome. He plays both the son and the father in the grandmother’s reveries. Trini is the teenaged daughter played by Kathy Velasquez. As Father Monroe, Mexican media heartthrob Raul Mendez is appropriately handsome and sexy, a Molotov cocktail of desire for both grandma and her daughter.  As the daughter, Marcela, Hannia Guillen is appropriately strong, yet at the end of her rope, as she tries to be everything to her family. 

This new drama by Mr. Cruz is a testament to the durability of the often told story of a hot, sexy, yet noble Catholic priest burning for sexual love while also inspiring the same in the most religious and modest of women. Due in no small measure to Mr. Mendez’ splendid acting and total commitment to his character, we care what happens to Father Monroe and to Marcela. We care what happens to Martina, since she is the second most developed character in the play. The way Ms. Lopez skillfully draws us into her world could have been expanded even more. When she told Marcela about her death, how she would wear lipstick for the angel who would come to her bedroom with his magnificent wings, we wished that she would be found smiling, wearing lipstick, with feathers inexplicably found in the bedroom. We wished for her to be lucid at times, perhaps to confront the reverend to remind him that he is already married to the Virgin Mary for his lifetime. We do have Bishop Andrew to play the voice of orthodoxy. As played by Michael Rudko, he is a sympathetic character, but by no means is he a source of support for Father Monroe. Their warm relationship darkens as bishop must enforce the rules of organized religion upon the priest.  At one point in their discussion, Bishop Andrew asks Father Monroe if he has ever enjoyed the pleasure s of men. The good Father replies yes. That’s the extent of that statement. We again wished for more. The few times Taviano, Jr. hugged Father Monroe, we did wish for them to devour each other like cupcakes. But that would be another story. For the conclusion, many wished for the Virgin Mary to make an appearance, asking for her wedding ring, while joining the couple together in holiness triumphing over dogma. 

Pride Night at the McCarter for this September 22nd performance was a lovely affair, with waiters, waitresses, a cute otter bartender, a lissome lassie bartendresse, canapés, and delicious foods provided by Mediterra restaurant.  It was a scene recalling The Death of Sardanapalus by Delacroix, with a cash bar. 

Bathing in Moonlight will run until October 9 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. For more information, visit .  The next Pride Night will be October 20th, for Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced.





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