When The Sun Shone Brighter

by Michael Martin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday June 7, 2010

John Herrera and Dan Domingues in When The Sun Shone Brighter at the Florida Stage through June 20, 2010.
John Herrera and Dan Domingues in When The Sun Shone Brighter at the Florida Stage through June 20, 2010.  

With its farewell to the current Plaza del Mar location in Manalapan pending, Florida Stage presents When The Sun Shone Brighter, a brand new play by local South Florida playwright Christopher Demos-Brown.

The storyline focuses on the continuing political aspirations of a fictional mayor of Miami-Dade named Jose "Joe" Sanchez-Fors, Jr. (Dan Domingues).

An old family friend, Manny Arostegui (John Herrera), acts as Joe's political advisor who hastens to rid Joe's intended path for Senator of any dirty laundry that might sabotage his progress to the coveted congressional seat.

Joe, as it turns out, has plenty of skeletons in his closet. His marriage to wife Liz Sanchez-McGovern (Natasha Sherritt) is rocky at best, and he spends an inordinate amount of time in seedy hotels cooped up with his selfish lover, Anthony "Tony" Rinaldi (Cliff Burgess).

Additionally, in what couldn't be worse timing, Detective Dwayne Grant (Brandon Morris) stops by Joe's office surprisingly to announce that he's re-opening a cold case file involving the death of Joe's father, Jose Sanchez, Sr. (Bill Schwartz), whom Joe witnessed being murdered when he was eight by fellow anti-Castro leftists.

Unfortunately, it's the context of the previous paragraph that splits the writer's attention and sends the play on two separate and mutually exclusive journeys.

The more potentially interesting plot line would seem to involve the fact that a closeted gay mayor might be found out as he seeks a higher power in government.

Why is Joe attracted to Tony? How did the two get together? When did Joe discover his homosexual self? These questions, and many others, are never answered by Demos-Brown.

Instead, the meat of the text takes a turn towards preaching and justifying anti-Castro sentiments still felt among many Cuban-Americans today. While this passionate fervor still exists, its impact on the potential drama at hand is negligible, and the associated dialogue becomes confusing and isolating.

On a "brighter" note, the author does possess amazing writing skills that seamlessly allow the flow of one scene to the next without the use of arresting blackouts; and his written words are often punctuated by the infectious performances by the cast.

Domingues, especially, does an amazing job in portraying Joe's diametrically adverse facades as the strong and confident politician, and an equally insecure closeted gay.

Herrera, too, shines with enormous vitality as he underscores Manny's passion to help place a Cuban-American in a higher political office.

Only Burgess seems to have missed a bit of the mark. While he certainly brings Tony's entitlement issues to light, the character appears to be too angry from start to finish. The audience needs to also see the juxtaposition of a possible softer side that perhaps attracted Joe in the first place.

Still, the play exudes an enormous potential for growth at the hands of this very talented playwright. Kudos to director Louis Tyrrell for ending the season on such a strong note.

Next season, Florida Stage takes up its new residence as part of the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in nearby West Palm Beach.

When The Sun Shone Brighter runs through June 20th at Florida Stage, 262 S. Ocean Boulevard, Manalapan, FL. For more information, please visit the www.floridastage.org website.

Michael Martin has been an active member of Actors' Equity for over 20 years. As a professional actor, he has toured many parts of the US and the world. Originally from St. Louis, he now resides in Miami.