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Review: ‘Bruising for Besos’ at Davidson/Valentini Theatre

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There’s a line in the film “Parenthood” in which the abused teen played by Keanu Reeves comments, “You need a license to buy a dog, to drive a car -- hell, you even need a license to catch a fish. But they’ll let any ... be a father.”

Even with the profanity elided, that observation remains shatteringly apt. With the antics of octo-mom dominating the news, what constitutes a fit parent is the subject of much recent, passionate discussion. But all questions of eugenics and eccentricity aside, active abuse is the clearly defining line between a happy childhood and daily misery.

In her solo show “Bruising for Besos” at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center’s Davidson/Valentini Theatre, Adelina Anthony intrepidly spans the divide. Anthony’s protagonist, Yoli Villamontes, seen both in childhood and maturity, is keenly aware of the abyss created by her macho, abusive father, and she deplores the victimization of her poor, immigrant mother, who endures all for the sake of her children.

“Besos” is the first piece in Anthony’s “The Xiqana Xronicles,” a cycle inspired by the recent death of her mother. The action commences beside a desolate Texas highway, where Yoli has been stranded en route to see her ailing mom -- her first visit in 10 years. As otherworldly as a moonscape, the stark milieu, beautifully realized by set, sound and lighting designers Robert Selander, D’Lo and John Pedone, respectively, is a fittingly desolate setting for Yoli’s painful journey into the past.

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Anthony is a striking performer with to-die-for cheekbones that could chop firewood. Under the taut direction of Rose Marcario, she bristles with seductive, simmering rage. Yoli’s childhood reminiscences sometimes seem generic, perhaps because the particular pathology between Yoli’s mother and father seems underdeveloped at this juncture. But Yoli’s path to proud lesbianism is vividly charted, as is Yoli’s steamy, stormy relationship with her lover. Indeed, Anthony concocts such sizzling sexual chemistry with herself you forget there’s only one person on stage.

--F. Kathleen Foley

“Bruising for Besos,” Davidson/Valentini Theatre, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends March 15. $20. (323) 860-7300; www.lagaycenter.org/boxoffice Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.


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