A competent ensemble brings much authenticity to this tale of displaced people who are forced to find their own way of assimilating themselves into the "American way of life." Bill Yule and Barry Ball's flawed but often jarring work spotlights six Cuban homosexual men who are quarantined together at the Krome detention center in Miami following the May 10, 1980 "Mariel Boat Lift" in which Fidel Castro exported thousands of criminals, gays and other "political dissidents" to the U.S.

A competent ensemble brings much authenticity to this tale of displaced people who are forced to find their own way of assimilating themselves into the “American way of life.” Bill Yule and Barry Ball’s flawed but often jarring work spotlights six Cuban homosexual men who are quarantined together at the Krome detention center in Miami following the May 10, 1980 “Mariel Boat Lift” in which Fidel Castro exported thousands of criminals, gays and other “political dissidents” to the U.S.

Watched over by the jovially malevolent visage of Castro (Danny Mora), the six widely diverse individuals, with only their homosexuality in common, must learn to deal with each other while combating the demons of their past and a horrifically insecure future. Director Valerie Landsburg overloads on supposedly meaningful, surrealistic stage business, and her choreographed flashbacks are surprisingly clumsy in concept and execution.

The “boys” are much more effective when they are in the present, tentatively reaching out to each other to create family in this alien environment. Yule and Ball resort to uninspired contrivance in the second act, which takes place six years later, as each man has moved out onto the American landscape. What’s sorely missing is the first act’s wonderful, interactive intensity.

The comedy in this work is supplied almost exclusively by Michael Kostroff’s outrageously flamboyant aging queen, Alfredo, who masterfully flits in and out of everyone’s business, executing a non-stop barrage of exquisitely timed zingers and one-liners. He is balanced by Michael Santorico’s sensitive portrayal of Ricardo, a kind and gentle intellectual whose countenance is imbued with a permanent sadness over the loss of his one true love, a Russian soldier.

The sensually rhythmic Rene Moreno is quite believable as Pedro, a former member of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba, who has been reduced to displaying his dancing skills on the streets to attract paying customers to his bed. And g. Beauxdin is deeply moving as the fragile, discarded Cuban youth who finds a better life “in drag” in the U.S.

The Boys of Mariel

The Lillian Theatre, Hollywood; 99 seats; $20 top

Production

Spotlight Entertainment, Little Orchard Films, Gary Blumsack & EOM Stageworks present a play in two acts, by Bill Yule & Barry Ball, directed by Valerie Landsburg. Producer, Leigh McLeod Fortier; production design, Douglas D. Smith; costume design, Philip Mershon; sound design, Rick Larimore; makeup design, Anne Sweeting; original music, James McVay; choreographer, Hector Mercado. Opened June 11, 1999; reviewed June 19; runs until July 24. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast

Antonio Tamayo - g. Beauxdin Inocencio Tejidor - John Frey Alfredo Odio - Michael Kostroff Javier Romero - Orlando Montes Fidel Castro - Donny Mora Pedro Serrano - Rene Moreno Ricardo Becerra - Michael Santorico
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