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Not About Me

A new memory play by Cuban American playwright Eduardo Machado linking the AIDS crisis with the Covid pandemic at the theater which has produced ten of his other plays over the years.

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Michael Domitrovich and Mateo d’Amato in a scene from Eduardo Machado’s “Not About Me” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief

Eduardo Machado’s 11th play to premiere at Theater for the New City is called Not About Me which is a complete misnomer as it is about his life for the last 40 years with his alter ego at its center. Marketed as a “memory play that takes audiences on a haunting journey through the mind of a playwright during Covid-19 lockdown,” in fact, it is about his friends who died during the last pandemic, the mysterious “gay disease” that came to be called AIDS. Other than as a tribute to those lost friends, it is difficult to see the message of the play as it depicts a great deal of risky behavior.

Narrated by bisexual Eduardo (Mateo d’Amato), a Cuban-American playwright, the character is at one point specifically called Eduardo Machado just like its author, and has an unseen wife Harriett in Los Angeles just as the author did. (How many of the other names are real is not clear.) The play begins in 1981 just before Eduardo’s first play is produced while he and his friends Frank, Tommy and Paul hang around in Greenwich Village discos looking for partners. Eduardo is smitten with actress Donna who is planning on appearing in one of his plays as well as Gerald who is considering directing another one. “Homosexuality is only something I do in the dark, in secret. That’s the deal we have. My sexy wife and I…,” Eduardo announces.

Sharon Ullrick and Mateo d’Amato in a scene from Eduardo Machado’s “Not About Me” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Paul becomes visibly upset when he reports that one of his friends is in the hospital dying of the new unnamed disease which seems to be attacking the gay community. “I’m going to live the way I want to live and no disease is going to stop me,” says Frank. They continue to have too many partners but they refuse to have sex with Eduardo which probably saves him from getting the unnamed disease. One by one they test positive for HIV and come down with AIDS, disappearing from the play.

Visiting Los Angeles periodically, Eduardo who is also an actor rehearses Tennessee Williams’ one-act play, “Talk to Me like the Rain” with an LA-based actress Marjorie who flirts with him and then tells him she is dying of liver cancer. Other than the fact that this really happened to the playwright, it is unclear what this has to do with the pandemic that he is recalling. Donna decides to leave her husband and takes Eduardo to an evangelical therapy meeting in New York to be cured of his homosexuality. When he points out that this is a fraud, Donna also exits from his life.

Heather Velasquez and Mateo d’Amato in a scene from Eduardo Machado’s “Not About Me” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Eduardo becomes more successful than his friends who work as waiters and he becomes a screenwriter, a television writer and a college professor. In the second act, time passes in great chunks, six years, 13 years, and very few friends are left. It is finally 2021, and Eduardo asks if the last friend we have met has survived Covid. Interspersed throughout are periodic video clips directed by Machado which look like home movies of gay bars, discos and plays in performance. The play is kind of scattershot in its structure with no scene motivated by the previous one but apparently informed by the author’s actual life.

Many of the actors have worked with Machado in the past in his capacity as a playwright and as a director, included Michael Domitrovich with whom he co-authored the book Tastes Like Cuba: An Exile’s Hunger for Home. As the leading character and narrator, d’Amato’s Eduardo is flamboyant and totally amoral. While he is not an admirable character, he does have a certain glamorous attraction for his friends and acquaintances. As his New York companions Frank, Tommy and Paul, Ellis Charles Hoffmeister, Charles Manning and Drew Valins are almost interchangeable and hard to keep separate which is the fault of the writing. However, they are each given their own passages. Playing actresses, Heather Velasquez as Donna and Sharon Ullrick (subbing for the previously announced Crystal Field) are as histrionic as Eduardo. Domitrovich as Gerald is rather mysterious as a creative person we are not told much about.

Ellis Charles Hoffmeister, Charles Manning, Mateo d’Amato and Drew Valins in a scene from Eduardo Machado’s “Not About Me” at Theater for the New City (Photo credit: Carol Rosegg)

Mark Marcante’s sets are minimal, allowing for easy transitions between the many scenes, while Kelsey Charter’s costumes define the characters giving each his or her own look.  Alex Bartenieff’s lighting is low on atmosphere. The sound design by David Margolin Lawson includes the original music of actor Domitrovich. While the physical production looks sketchy and inadequate, the acting and directing verge on soap opera. An interesting idea to link the AIDS crisis with the Covid pandemic; unfortunately, the play seems to be underwritten on characters who are most likely based on recognizable people and overwritten on relationships that mean more to the author than the audience.

Not About Me (through February 5, 2023)

Theater for the New City and Suite 524

Community Space Theater, 155 First Avenue, between Ninth and Tenth Streets, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-254-1109 or visit http://www.theaterforthenewcity.net

Running time: two hours and ten minutes with one intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief
About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (855 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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