Theater Review: DESIRE IN A TINIER HOUSE (Pride Films and Plays at the Pride Arts Center)

Post image for Theater Review: DESIRE IN A TINIER HOUSE (Pride Films and Plays at the Pride Arts Center)

by Lawrence Bommer on June 5, 2019

in Theater-Chicago


Sometimes what you see is much less than what you get.

Case in point: Pride Films and Plays is closing its season with a daunting new work written by Ryan Oliveira and directed by Topher Leon. Desire in a Tinier House (its title as mystifying as most of its plot) is a two-hour, two-act, two-character experiment in unproductive exposition. Fraught with histrionic agitation fueled by unearned emotions, it seems to be serious but too often suggests a dog chasing its tail. Or a play that, unsure where it’s heading, makes itself up as it lurches on.

Ostensibly Oliveira’s character drama focuses on two twentysomething Latinx gay lovers mired in dystopian times and family troubles. Cocky, high-strung and terminally talky, Trevin (Rolando Serrano) is a computer programmer who concocts applications that may predict the future. (He’s also working on a line of designer underwear.) Calmer and more wary, Carlos (Carlos Wagener-Sobrero) is a Brazilian teacher with ambitions to go to med school.

In hit-and-run scenes full of tortured lyricism, double entendre wordplay, and forced metaphors, we watch this duo trek the country — from Colorado to Ohio to N.Y.C. and finally to California — indulging in silhouetted sex, challenging each other’s assumptions, and, most of all, endeavoring to survive an increasingly oppressive America. The one constant is a love offering of grapes that, book-ending the play, hints at the continuity of passion.

Vague announcements of nuclear attacks followed by a totalitarian takeover (involving implanted control chips) and a persistent plague punctuate the intermission and literally infect the second act. A California quarantine must be contended with, as well as gun-toting Trevin’s growing paranoia over the 30 or so provocative videos they’ve dumped onto social media.

Though slowed down by cumbersome set changes, Topher Leon’s necessarily driven staging ignites its own case of homosexual panic. More often Oliveira’s cryptically depicted crises, casualties of tedious overplotting, verge on much ado about nothing.

No question, Serrano and Wagener-Sobrero, conveying Trevin’s emo-ridden extremes and Carlos’s cautionary pushback and Portuguese mutterings, deliver charismatic portraits of desperate dudes at dead ends. But by the final blackout a play has to offer more than inexplicably presented, manufactured obstacles substituting for real conflict. And, even if the scenes never add up, they should at least not subtract.

photos by Elias Rios

Desire in a Tinier House
Pride Films and Plays
The Broadway, Pride Arts Center, 4139 N. Broadway
Thurs-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 3:30; Wed at 7:30 (June 12, 19, 26 only)
ends on June 29, 2019
for tickets, call 773.857.0222 or visit Pride Films and Plays

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

Comments on this entry are closed.