This piece is about a play by Hoboken actress Jezabel Montero that will be part of Fringe NYC! I’m going to see it later this month, so I’m pretty psyched.
Racy Fringe NYC comedy “Cassanova Was a Woman” explores cultural, sexual stereotypes
Can you be blonde, blue-eyed and Latin? Can you be a free-spirited, bisexual monogamist? Can one facet of your identity outshadow another?
Hoboken playwright Jezabel Montero searches for the answers to these questions in her semi-autobiographical work, “Cassanova Was a Woman,” which will premiere August 22 as part of the New York International Fringe Festival.
Montero will star as title character Cassanova Canto, a woman who she says doesn’t fit any of today’s social stereotypes. In the play, the blonde Cuban-American falls in love with a woman while still married to her husband and must deal with her homophobic sister, famous Spanish soap star mother and her subconscious, embodied by a naked “Fantasy Man.”
The 12-year Mile Square City resident said the play looks at a side of bisexuality seldom discussed.
“It’s about how to be a bisexual monogamist. Is it harder than being any other kind of monogamist? What happens when you really are attracted to both sexes and you want to be monogamous? If you’re with a man but you want a woman, is that cheating?” she said, adding that the play also explores different cultural and sexual stereotypes as well as the nature of bisexuality itself.
“’Bisexual’ – what is that? Are you in the closet and not really bisexual?” she said. “The gay community pressures bisexuals just as much as the straight community does. Straight people say you’re just experimenting, gay people say they’re really just gay. Here, the lead is being pressured to fit a certain mold, but she doesn’t. That’s the struggle.”
Overall, Montero says she doesn’t believe sex has all the answers.
“The bottom line is, it’s about who you love. There’s a line in play – ‘Fidelity is a choice and love trumps all,’” said Montero. “Even though you have these struggles as a bisexual, it’s really about who you love.”
While “Cassanova” tackles some difficult subjects, Montero said it’s a racy, romantic comedy first, a study of human nature, second.
The play is Montero’s first foray into writing for the stage and was adapted from a screenplay by the same name. The writer said translating “Cassanova” from one medium into another was a challenge.
“I had to tear down so much stuff,” said Montero. “Transitions are much quicker in film. On screen, there’s no blackout. Here, it’s a blackout and you have to wait, put music, etc.”
She said the play retained a cinematic feel and sometimes resembles a music video during sections with visuals, music but no dialogue. As the director of “Cassanova,” Montero said she often had to step out of the scene to make sure everything was the way she wanted it.
“When you direct something with a lot of people, you have to see it and see where everybody’s standing. I would have to step out and deliver my lines from the audience,” said Montero, who is in all but two scenes in the production. “It would drive the other actors crazy because they need me.”
Her biggest challenge, however, was playing Cassanova.
“I’m kind of playing myself, but not really,” she said, adding that Cassanova’s 75-minute journey does not resemble her own. “The way it’s set up with all the lines, it’s all brand new.”
Montero also said Cassanova is “much more ambivalent, much more conflicted and confused,” than she is, but noted, “She’s very complicated. Personally, I’m not that complicated, but it’s more interesting to watch (Cassanova) than someone who’s okay wtith everything.”
The first-time NY International Fringe Festival participant said the audience will enjoy themselves at the multi-dimensional show.
“They can expect constant laughter and poignant moments,” said Montero. “They’re gonna laugh, they’re gonna think and they’re gonna be touched.”
“Cassanova Was a Woman” will premiere on August 22 at The Living Theater, 21 Clinton St., New York, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival. Tickets are $15 to $18. For more information, visit FringeNYC.org or call 1-(866) 468-7619. For more information about Jezabel Montero, visit NoCloutProds.com.