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    Hispanic Heritage Month: Theatre Rhino Charges into The Castro with Reyes’ Bad Hombres

    By Crystal Liu–

    For longtime patrons and supporters of Theatre Rhinoceros, it is well understood that subtlety is not the company’s main concern. And for recent passersby of 4229 18th Street in the Castro, the bold visual messages of the world’s longest-running LGBTQ+ theatre are more in-your-face than ever. 

    Under a weathered sign still bearing the former leaseholder’s name is a pair of three-foot-tall posters greeting onlookers: one poster features drag performers beaming delightedly through the street front window, and the other advertisesthe first show of the theatre’s 46th season. This season is aptly titled “LIVE IN THE CASTRO,” which sounds superficial but discloses a much deeper significance: as of August 2022, Theatre Rhinoceros is the formal leaseholder of 4229 18th Street (formerly known as SparkArts, a gallery and community arts center), making it the only resident live theatre company in the Castro.

    Theatre Rhinoceros (or “The Rhino” for short) already left clear footprints in the neighborhood last year, when their production of At the Wake of a Dead Drag Queen by Terry Guest, directed by Tanika Baptiste, garnered so much positive attention that Mayor London Breed and District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman attended a performance in person, praising the company for adapting to create live art in a time of national crisis. Indeed, such a stripped down, intimate theatre space demands that focus be rooted in strong storytelling and the craft of performance, both of which are exemplified in the first production of The Rhino’s 2022–23 Season: Bad Hombres

    Bad Hombres by Guillermo Reyes (sometimes presented with the poetically confrontational subtitle Date Me or Deport Me) is an often darkly comedic character study in various Latinx, Hispanic, and LGBTQ+ identities and intersections. The play’s seven characters—among them a Lucha Libre-obsessed father, a melodramatic drag queen in desperate, forbidden “trans-border” love, and Ulysses, our neurotic guide down a spiral of gay male anxiety—drip with satire, monologuing in tones that evoke bitterness, hilarity, and empathy.

    Through these over-the-top fictional characters recounting the over-the-top circumstances of their lives, Reyes, a Chilean-born, highly prolific writer iconic to the Phoenix, AZ, theatre scene, sets fire to hypermasculinity, hookup apps, assimilation, aspirations to whiteness, and the closet, revealing complexities of queer love, (non)monogamy, and power dynamics at the intersection of Latinx and LGBTQ+ experiences. Reyes both invites and dares audiences to laugh at the current American reality as seen through a kaleidoscope of historically stereotyped and targeted identities, here embodied and performed entirely by a single actor, Rudy Guerrero. 

    Last seen as Macduff in The Rhino’s Salesforce Park production of Macbeth, Guerrero now truly demonstrates his broad acting range through this spectrum of characters. Bringing the play to The Rhino was, in fact, Guerrero’s idea—he came across Bad Hombres while researching solo pieces, already familiar with Reyes’ hilariously-titled Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown: “When I learned [Reyes] had written a similar play rooted in a more contemporary setting of American politics and the social struggles of Latinx gay and queer-identified characters, it was a no-brainer.” John Fisher, The Rhino’s Executive Artistic Director, looked at the script and agreed: “It’s a fabulous piece of writing.”

    Guerrero also hopes the play’s comic complexities pierce through to perhaps challenge some theatergoers’ perspectives: “I would like audience members to leave the theater laughing (after all, it is a comedy) but also carry with them empathy for people who identify as gay or queer in the Latinx communities. I’d like them to have a better understanding of the unique political and social struggles inherent within this particular subculture. I’m honored to be the opening show for The Rhino’s 22/23 Season.” 

    Bad Hombres is directed by River Bermudez Sanders and performs at Theatre Rhinoceros, 4229 18th Street, San Francisco, Thursday, October 6, through Sunday, October 30. Playwright Reyes plans to attend the sold-out opening night performance on Saturday, October 8. Tickets can be purchased at http://therhino.org/

    Theatre Rhinoceros’s 2022–23 season also includes the following presentations: A Slice of Life written and directed by John Fisher (November 5–27, 2022); A Guide for the Homesick by Ken Urban, directed by Alan Quismorio (February 25–March 19, 2023); The Rita Hayworth of this Generation by Tina D’Elia, directed by Mary Guzmán (April 8–23, 2023); and a modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello (May 27–29, 2023). Fisher’s ongoing solo series, Essential Service Project, performs in person and virtually most Thursdays at 8 pm.

    Visit The Rhino website (http://therhino.org/) and follow @theatrerhinoceros on Instagram and Facebook for more details. 

    Crystal Liu has performed with, worked backstage for, and held administrative positions in theater companies all over the Bay Area. She holds degrees in theater and anthropology from Yale University and was recently seen onstage in The Rhino’s “Sister Act” as Curtis Jackson. She is particularly interested in theatre with emphasis on education, youth, and marginalized communities.

    Arts & Entertainment
    Published on October 6, 2022