‘Martin, Love, Sex, & Rhythm’
July 10 -27
Capital Fringe Festival
Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H St., N.E.
Alvaro Maldonado’s Capital Fringe show was inspired by a statistic.
“A while back I read a study that finds 50 percent of gay couples are not monogamous,” he says. “That number intrigues me. Assuming it’s correct, that means half of gay couples are in open relationships or hooking up on the sly.
“What also intrigues me is the gay community’s reaction to open relationships,” says Maldonado, who is gay and has been with his partner for 11 years. “I was at a wedding recently where the guests were whispering about the same-sex couple because they’re in an open relationship. To many, an open relationship is demonstrative of a character flaw rather than a pragmatic approach to keep an ongoing relationship viable.”
In “Martin Love, Sex & Rhythm,” the musical performance Maldonado created for Capital Fringe (D.C.’s annual citywide summer theater festival), he explores open relationships, gay-on-gay shaming and the dynamic HIV plays in relationships and dating all through the lens of Sean (played by Maldonado) and Martin, a monogamous couple intent on scratching the seven-year itch.
The show features a mix of pop music, dance (contemporary, hip hop, tango, etc.), and dialogue. Its eight-man cast playing only gay characters is terrific, says the 29-year-old dancer/choreographer. “We got lucky. There aren’t a lot of well-trained male dancers out there who are willing to kiss other men, be half naked and act dance and sing for very little money.”
Maldonado is at home on stage, but “Martin” marks his first crack at playwriting, which he says he wrote out of necessity.
There was no existing material that said what he wanted to say. His first draft was bad, says Maldonado. The show’s director, Freddie Mancilla, quipped that it was so shallow even Britney Spears wouldn’t touch it. But after multiple rewrites, it began to come together.
“Everything in my script happened to me or one of my friends. Initially I didn’t want to put myself out there. There was some discomfort with people thinking everything I wrote was really about me. It’s not. But I got past that.”
A classically trained ballet dancer, Maldonado left his native El Salvador at 17 to study and perform abroad. He heads his own small, D.C.-based company, Ballet Teatro Internacional. Though initially wary of Fringe, he now sees it as an opportunity to show what he can do.
Martin’s lover Sean is played by local actor Victor Maldonado (no relation to his costar). Alvaro first approached Victor last winter following a performance of “The Young Lady from Tacna” at Gala Theatre in which Victor played a dashing young officer. Typically, says Victor, he isn’t open to hearing spiels from people he’s just met, but because Alvaro shared his surname, he decided to listen.
“The more I heard about his project the more I liked it,” Victor says. “Had this been a campy gay romp through New York City or a glossed over love story, I wouldn’t have been interested. But Alvaro’s show allows for the arts to weigh in on what is the reality of gay relationships and their many forms. In pursuing civil rights and marriage equality in particular, so much energy is put toward providing the world with appetizing images of gay couples. Not to say that some of these aren’t true, but clearly there is some reality missing from the discussion.”
A former Capitol Hill staffer and communication director for non-profits, Victor has been a full time actor for three years.
“It’s a scary jump to make, especially in your mid-30s. For me it was right. Acting had to be more than a hobby.”
With “Martin,” Victor hopes to create a conversation around the realities of relationships.
“Iconic models of marriage, fidelity and monogamy are important,” he says. “They’re some people’s experience but they’re not everyone’s. We don’t want audiences to leave wanting to open relationship or enter into a serodiscordant relationship, necessarily, but maybe have an open mind about things and some understanding surrounding these realities.”
“We’re looking to create a conversation. Art is the path to people’s hearts and minds. We’d like to help audiences see things a little differently and at the same time, hopefully make some people interested enough that they’d be willing to help us bring the show to larger audiences.”