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Fresh Fruit Fest: 'Hassan & Sylvia' at the Cherry Lane Studio Theatre

Reviewed by Erik Haagensen  JULY 18, 2010


The striking Karin de la Penha made Sylvia cool and composed, wry and reflective, in an assured turn...”


“Hassan & Sylvia” isn’t really about either title character. Instead, the protagonist is 33-year-old Carlos Quinn, who has recently lost his 50-something lover of 15 years, Vincenzo, to a sudden heart attack. Nudged out of his self-imposed isolation to see a gay friend’s cabaret act at the Townhouse, the Spanish-Irish Carlos meets the unlikely title pair. Hassan is a charismatic gay Moroccan party planner, and the mysterious Sylvia is his constant companion. Hassan is smitten with Carlos and pursues him, offering a seductive high-end lifestyle. Carlos is enticed but wary, and so the dance is played out. Igrejas writes believable characters and intriguing situations, but he relies too much upon monologues, which start to feel structurally repetitive. Igrejas does mix it up a bit with the employment of a narrator, who can control the action and occasionally comments upon it in amusing metatheatrical moments, which director David Hilder confidently delivers. But the central problem is that Hassan just isn’t as interesting as he needs to be.

Still, the play holds our attention, and Carlos’ final monologue is quite moving, particularly as rendered by John Wernke, who turned in a strong performance as the complicated boy-man, sweet, sexy, smart, and touchingly bewildered. The striking Karin de la Penha made Sylvia cool and composed, wry and reflective, in an assured turn, and Casey Burden showed terrific range as Carlos’ singing friend and a butch chauffeur.