By Constance Rogers
Rosario and The Gypsies, presented by Theater for the New City, is a new full length version of writer, director Eduardo Machado‘s one-act musical originally written and performed in 1982. Rosario (Heather Velazquez) leads a troupe of hippie avant-garde dancers and singers in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. The second act takes place in the 1990’s, after the troupe has disbanded, and yuppies have replaced hippies as the dominant purveyors of American culture.
The play grapples with the heady ideas of art as political/social truth vs. art as entertainment. Rosario sees herself as a revolutionary and demands from her Gypsies a total rejection of all things bourgeois. The revolutions they are living are all consuming, and encompass all aspects of a life-well-lived; political, sexual, psychedelic, artistic. But the times change, and the virtues and ideals of the troupe, like those of the American sub-culture the play re-calls, do not prevail. Howard (Quinlan Corbett), one of Rosario’s lovers, wants a home and a baby. Rosario does not. The troupe, trying to attract an audience again, wants more entertainment, less politics and soul-searching. Rosario does not.
The Gypsies all leave Rosario, some to chase their bourgeois dreams’ of monogamy and security, some just because there is no audience – no one is listening anymore.
But by the second act realizing they have lost all the revolutions they were fighting, the troupe, all but one, come back to Rosario. Claude, a drag queen, (Michael Domitrovich) does not return. He has died. Though it is unmentioned we suppose it was AIDS, the other scourge (like yuppies) of the 80’s and 90’s. However, there is hope. Claude had a son, Ramon, also played by Michael Domitrovich. Ramon finds Rosario and is instrumental in bring the troupe back together for closure and to teach him, Ramon, the glorious, hard-to-live ideals of political, soul-searching art and the rejection of bourgeois values.
Rosario and The Gypsies is wonderful, fabulous, inspiring, funny and sad. The music and lyrics are part 60’s rock, part show tune, part flamenco, and all beautiful, catchy and meaningful. Many of the songs are worthy of becoming a part of our American classics, and there are far too many smart or heart tugging lyrics to quote. The performers are truly amazing. Each one adept in so many forms; comedy, tragedy, impersonation, musical (singing and dancing). I felt I was watching the greats of the avant-garde theater of the 60’s and 70’s. The intensity and primalness could have been in any Ludlam show, the political awareness in any Living Theater show, and the camp in any Cockettes show. This work is a tribute to the times, and an examination of all we gained, lost, never accomplished and will never forget. Thank you Machado, Vartorella and all the performers and musicians for an evening that touched my heart, mind and soul.
Rosario and The Gypsies, written and directed by Eduardo Machado; music by Rick Vartorella; lyrics by Eduardo Machado and Rick Vartorella; choreography by Crystal Field.
Set design by Mark Marcante; lighting design by Alexander Bartenieff; costume design by Michael Bevins; stage manager Fran Acuña-Almiron; assistant director Corbin Went; drag make-up Joey Maalouf; press representative Jonathan Slaff; dramaturg Megan Smith.
Starring: Robert Boston (and piano), John J. Concado, Quinlan Corbett, Michael Domitrovich, Gizel Jimenez, Kirk McGee, Heather Velazquez and Corbin Went. With John Dryer on bass; Scott Morehouse on percussion and Rick Vartorella on guitar.
Theater for the New City, Johnson Theater 155 First Ave. (at E. 10th Street) (212) 254-1109 February 18-March 8 2015: Thursdays through Saturdays at 8:00 PM, Sundays at 3PM, Ticket Prices $10-$15. Available at the box office or smarttix.com Running time: 2 hours