by: JK Clarke
“We were supposed to be Will & Grace!”
The story of young artists struggling to make it in New York is almost as old as the metropolis itself. From a runaway teen bride in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to struggling boehmians in Rent, the concept is almost universal among young artists trying to “make it.” The latest version of this oft-told tale is I Catch You Dreaming, now playing at the Flamboyán Theater in the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center on the Lower East Side.
This round of hopeful New York art school immigrants are aspiring actors Dennis (Rafael Albarrán who also wrote and produced the play) and Amanda (Amanda Ríos) who’ve left their respective dysfunctional relationships back in Puerto Rico with dreams of success on stage. They do indeed wish they were a Will & Grace couple, the eponymous woman and her gay best friend of the 90s sitcom. But, like all TV households, those lifestyles are unheard of in real life: apartment hunters in search of dwellings like those on Friends, Seinfeld and Sex in the City, Dennis and Amanda discover that the first roadblock of life in the big city is the near impossibility of finding a suitable and affordable place to live, nevermind employment.
I Catch You Dreaming is as much about relationships won and lost in pursuit of dreams as it is about fulfilling the dream itself. The lovers the fame-seeking duo leave behind end up going through their own travails. The once chaste and sober Angel (Velson D’Souza) doesn’t find himself again until he has been nearly ruined with alcoholism and life-altering promiscuity. And Amanda’s obnoxious boyfriend Marco (John Paul Harkins), whom we are glad to see her leave, falls apart as well, only to find solidarity and friendship with Angel.
While the play feels a little too reminiscent of many plays that have come before it—particularly with a few too many elements in common with Rent—it is a story that is relevant to each new generation that encounters it. And with each changing generation, we also witness changing social elements. Where AIDS was a show-stopping tragic element in Rent, when Angel contracts it, it is only a stumbling block in his life: such has the significance of the disease changed. What’s more, the fluidity of sexual preference reveals itself in this play, with Amanda, heretofore heterosexual, comfortably falling for her female landlord. Once again, a situation that was once fraught with social peril, sexual preference is so much less significant than it once was, that it no longer ranks as a plot point.
The acting is relatively even (with some touches that feel a little too much like acting class); Serena E. Miller’s performance as the entr’acte cellist as well as a homeless sage is quite pleasing. Furthermore, Jason Fok’s lighting design is quite lovely and mood enhancing. I Catch You Dreaming is an emotional piece that retells a timeless story, and it’s always interesting to see the latest take.
I Catch You Dreaming. Through through Sunday March 22 at the Flamboyán Theater in the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center, 107 Suffolk Street (between Rivington and Delancey Streets). www.eventbrite.com
Photo: Disanto Diaz