Theater / Film
Love As an Untenable Equation
Cuban-born playwright Yoshvani Medina grew up with a love for mathematics. In his latest play, The Mathematics of Desire, which opens May 13, Medina utilizes the illusory and magical elements of math to sharpen the psychological edges of a vicious love triangle. He recounts how in the early 1980s in a recreational math workshop, a professor demonstrated that the number one is equal to the number two. “That changed my life forever because despite not being real, its certainty had been demonstrated on indisputable grounds.”
Medina adds that his play works on a similar principle. “It’s a demonstration of the impossible. In this case, we’re revealing human beings from the point of view of their psyches, as if they could carry their ideas outside their heads.”
Written and directed by Medina and performed in Spanish with English supertitles, the play wrestles with marital and extramarital relationships. Ben (Juan David Ferrer), a businessman and his wife, Tarah (Yrelkan Brown) are a burned-out couple trying to save their marriage by taking a weekend away.
Yenilen Mola plays the role of a mysterious painter, an allusive woman who is the axis on which the play’s drama revolves. Medina has very specific ideas about couples: “Husbands look for a lover to stay in the relationship and wives look for a lover to leave the relationship.”
In The Mathematics of Desire he was interested in exploring the question what happens when the lover, wife, and husband interact.
Not just the concept of math, but also its precision influenced Medina’s use of language and set design. “I see the play like a cathedral of the senses,” Medina explains, “stripped of adornments and artifice, where precision rules and the unit of measurement is a one square foot plastic crate.”
One of the challenges Medina gave himself in creating this psychological thriller is that it takes place in numerous locations such as a gym, bar, hotel, etc. These different venues are delineated by the placement of simple milk crates one square foot in size, and what Medina humorously refers to as “histrionic algorithms.” The latter references the psychological complexity of the characters.
Dramaturgically speaking, Medina says they were fascinating to construct: “The characters exist on very different psychological planes. One has histrionic personality disorder, the other is bipolar, and the other paranoid.” Medina adds that it was also important to develop the characters on stage with the help of the actors in the rehearsal process: “One writes with the heart, but one acts with the entire body.”
As soon as Medina finished writing the play, he called actor Juan David Ferrer to read the script and star in the male lead: “Juan David is a master of the theater. Every rehearsal is like being in school. All I have to do is make him feel comfortable and once he is, he’s a creative monster.”
The founder and artistic director of ArtSpoken in Little Havana, Medina has been making theater in Miami since 2010. He has produced numerous plays locally and internationally in English, Spanish, French, and the Creole of Martinique, where he lived for 12 years. In 2015 in New York, he was granted three awards for his skills as a director and producer: the HOLA, the Latin ACE Award, and the Innovative Theatre Award in New York.
The Mathematics of Desire is a love triangle whose uniqueness relies as much on the actors’ chemistry as it does the play’s tumultuous story. “It’s difficult to make non-commercial theater in Miami,” says Medina. “But it is also beautiful and meaningful.”
‘The Mathematics of Desire’ presented by ArtSpoken from May 13 to the 29th, Friday and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. and Sundays at 5 p.m. at ArtSpoken, 1167 SW 6th St., Miami; $25 at the door and $20 with a reservation; in Spanish with English supertitles; www.artspokenmiami.com
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