GULFPORT — The namesake of Wilson Loria's Marianne is one woman, many women and no woman all at once. She is put on a pedestal, disgraced, subjugated and even murdered.
We never meet her face to face. Instead, nine characters of different ages, backgrounds and levels of sanity talk about her — and in just 53 minutes, Loria portrays them all with gymnastic agility.
There's a psychopathic mime, and then a butcher, poet, taxi driver and even a young boy. All of the characters in the solo one-act show are preoccupied, in one way or another, with the maddeningly elusive Marianne.
"These monologues have been written in different phases of my life, but, one day, I realized that they could work as a play," Loria shared during a post-performance interview. "Marianne, the name most mentioned, turned out to be the thread that ties them all together. Marianne is the figure, the idea of a woman or women. We all know a Marianne in our lives."
Through Loria's satire, he effectively tackles the Oedipus complex, human competitiveness and gender inequality.
Animated and intense, he has no qualms about engaging the audience with eye contact in the City of Imagination's intimate space. His flamboyant gestures and sinister jokes fetch a few laughs too.
A red backdrop with carefully placed costume changes and props — such as an old red accordion used to play Somewhere My Love — convey a mysteriously blood-lusty tone. A soundtrack by Patricia Borneman and sound tech by David Boston add to the chillingly off-kilter mood, recalling the oddball evil of David Lynch and the colorful scenography and characters of Pedro Almodovar — who, like Loria, reveals an affinity for understanding women.
"I love women," Loria professed. "I am close to my mother, and I have always had women around me."
One of those women, close friend and frequent collaborator Ciara Carinci, directs the show. A cultural pioneer in Gulfport, Carinci presides over the City of Imagination performance space. In years past, she's brought interactive, roving street theater to Beach Boulevard, and has more recently staged a wide assortment of events, from storytelling to visual arts shows to the black box theater of Marianne, which runs through May 20.
Carinci and Loria's coffee rituals and personal ties don't get in the way of their working relationship. Carinci has worked with Loria on past solo works such as the head-trippy nun piece The Habit.
"Wilson is great to work with because he loves to experiment," Carinci said. "He's a true professional who's open to direction."
Born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Loria began performing as a teenager. He belonged to a theater group that staged plays in shantytowns, at schools and to several different workers' unions. In 2000, he worked as assistant director to Brazilian performer Denise Stoklos in Vozes Dissonantes and Louise Bourgeois at the legendary off-off-Broadway theater La MaMa.
Now a U.S. citizen, Loria has lived in this country a total of 32 years. For 18 of those years, he lived in New York, where he received his master's degree in performance studies at the New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Gulfport has been his "hub" for the past 14 years, but he returns to Brazil often.
Theatergoers from throughout the Tampa Bay area attended the opening weekend of performances of Marianne. University of South Florida student and Valrico-based dancer Zoe Gallon praised Loria for his "ability to challenge how we view our very own realities while keeping you captivated into a world unknown."
While reluctant to specify any one overarching message, Loria does repeat certain lines, such as "words are everything" — perhaps to make us question how our choice of words can either bring us closer or deepen divides.
"I truly believe there are certain things in life that should never be explained but only exclusively felt, on and through your skin, and definitely in your heart," Loria said.
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Jay Cridlin, Times pop music/culture critic