Zephyr Theatre. Image courtesy of Yelp.

By Cynthia Citron

The invitation to come and review a play called “Wink” provided a brief description of what the play was about. I thought it might be enlightening and interesting. I was wrong on both counts.

“Wink” is a badly written one-note play about a young person who is both male and female. He/she is not gay nor transgender, but a non-binary human, according to the identification in the playbill of Andrik Ochoa, who plays a character like himself, and/or Wink. (“Binary”, according to the dictionary, is something comprised of two mutually exclusive components.)

The audience is introduced to Wink as they enter the theater and seat themselves. He/she is wearing jeans, a neutral short-sleeved shirt, and heavy eye-liner and mascara. He/she is sitting on the floor drawing large doodles with colored chalk.

As the play gets underway we find Wink sitting on a bench in the park humming to himself/herself and composing lyrics of the June-moon variety to go with the tunes he makes up and sings (slightly flat).

Seated on a nearby bench is a once-celebrated Academy Award-winning actor named Dario Villanova (played by David Mingrino, who delivers an outstanding performance). In a highly implausible moment, he and Wink begin a conversation. Wink declares his affection for doo-wop and as they sing along together Villanova quickly develops an interest in this whimsical waif. Obviously lonely and still grief-stricken over the death of his housekeeper’s son who drowned in his pool, Villanova spontaneously invites Wink back to his home for a meal. And after completing their rather nonsensical discussion, they leave the scene together.

Villanova, like Wink, is a volunteer at Replenishment House, a home for emotionally and sexually troubled young people. In short order, Villanova has taken Wink under his wing and when next we see them Wink has been living in Villanova’s house for quite some time.

This causes great anxiety to Villanova’s long-time agent, Peter (Adam Cardon, who also delivers a fine performance). Peter, who is trying to resuscitate his friend’s sagging career, has given him a script in which Villanova would play a character named Dr. Death. The movie, called “Slaughter”, is set in Bucharest and involves a Romanian doctor who routinely murders and chops up his patients. (Think Transylvania and Dracula). Naturally, the kindly Villanova rejects the whole idea.

But Peter is insistent, informing Villanova that his benefactor would be willing to pay a million dollars for him to agree to star in the film. What worries Peter, however, is Villanova’s attachment to young Wink and the effect that Wink’s demeanor could have on the public’s perception of the aging actor.

From early on, however, Wink’s genitalia is the actual focus of the play. Is he/she equipped with a penis or a vagina or both? Or neither? Peter becomes so obsessed with the question that he eventually attempts to pull down Wink’s pants, whereupon Wink punches him so hard that Peter threatens to call the police. Villanova, so angered by Peter’s threat, tells him that if he does call the police, he, Villanova, will turn the fight into a scandal that will cost Peter his work and his career. Peter responds in disbelief. “You’d throw me under the bus?” he asks. Most definitely.

Two other actors appear peripherally to add some other minor conflict to the play. Amy Argyle plays Valerie Smith, a public relations professional who wants to dwell on Wink’s sexual orientation in the press release she is writing, and Euriamis Losada as Manuel Ortiz, a gay man who is a representative of Replenishment House, who brings “political correctness” to the others by carping on the words they use, making additions and deletions to their public documents.

All in all, this play did not coalesce as it might have. Or should have. In my view, the individual characters were insipid, lacking in zest, humor, or credibility. Whether it was because of the script written by Neil Koenigsberg or the direction by Michael Allen Angel, the story lacked the power to evoke emotion or empathy in this audience of one (me). Perhaps it had something to do with the way Andrik Ochoa presented himself. He was terminally perky, twirling and spinning, dripping energy and whimsy all over the stage, leaving the other players with little to do but holler at each other.

This play, now having its West Coast premiere after its premiere in New York in April 2017, can be seen at The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, in Hollywood Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 through January 13, 2019. There will be no shows on Monday, Dec. 24 and 31, but there will be additional performances on Friday, Dec. 21 and 28 and Jan. 11th. For reservations, call (323) 960-1055 or online at www.zephyrtheatre.com.

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