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OUT IN JERSEY REVIEW: “The Hombres” explores the meanings of masculinity

by Allen Neuner

Tony Meneses sets a tale exploring the meaning of what it is to be a man

Once upon a time, in a town off an NJ Transit line, there was a yoga studio next door to a construction site. It is here that playwright Tony Meneses sets a tale exploring the meaning of what it is to be a man and the many ways to express masculinity. Two River Theater in Red Bank presents The Hombres, a beautiful and powerful new play making its world premiere in the intimate Marion Huber Theatre. It is a play that must be seen, that deserves to be seen, that is a privilege to see.

We are introduced to Julián (Eddie Gutierrez), a dancer/choreographer and one of the instructors at the yoga studio, who is a younger gay Latino man. Next door at the construction site is Beto (Jon Rua), Pedro (Victor Cruz), and their supervisor Héctor (Gerardo Rodriguez). Héctor, in particular, is intrigued by Julián’s centeredness and air of inner calm and wants to know more about achieving it. We also meet Miles (Noah Gaynor), a young Anglo man taking yoga classes and tentatively trying to form a friendship with Julián.

Héctor confronts Julián one evening after the studio is closed and asks the younger man to teach him yoga in exchange for helping to clean the place after hours. In the course of things, Héctor undergoes a change, starting to reach his own center and inner peace. In time, Pedro finds out and joins the after-hours class and cleaning crew. But the changes in Héctor and Pedro arouse Beto’s suspicions…

Annie Tippe’s direction and this extremely talented cast bring out the life, the heart, and soul of playwright Meneses’ script. The set, an effective blending of the yoga studio and the construction site, is the work of Scenic Designer Amy Rubin, with the contributions of Lighting Designer Alejandro Fajardo and Sound Designer Germán Martinez, whose sound designs were also put to good use at George Street Playhouse’s recent production of Baipás. A key part of the creative team is Jon Rua as the choreographer. It is a pleasant surprise to find that Bua, who plays Beto, has created two lively, effective dance pieces for the show.

The Hombres is about aspects of masculinity, but it is also about the struggle between the guilt of past actions and the hope of future redemption and growth. It is serious and funny and heartbreaking and beautiful, and above all, it is fully masculine and alive. It is a play not just for the serious play-goer but for all play-goers.

Two River Theater is to be praised for co-commissioning and presenting this work. You owe it to yourselves to make the trip to Red Bank to see The Hombres.

The Hombres is presented by Two River Theater at the Marion Huber Theatre in their building in Red Bank through April 10th. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to tworivertheater.org or call 732-345-1400. Proof of vaccination must be shown to enter the theatre, and masks must be worn while inside the building.