We Heart Heartbeats Productions presents Salvador, a personal journey of self-discovery and exploration at this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival. The story follows a young Hispanic gay man, Rafael Antonio Renderos, as he considers what his life would have been like if his parents hadn’t left his native home in El Salvador for a life in North America. He would have been born in the midst of a civil war, would he even be alive today?
Renderos trekked back to El Salvador to explore what their gay culture and community is like. There he meets a man named Juaquín Caceres, founder of Asociacíon Entre Amigos whose painful story sheds unexpected light on Renderos’ own.
The performance shifts perspectives, first chronicling Renderos’ life growing up gay moving from Los Angeles to Toronto and the ins and outs of the gay community – from hook ups and dating to public displays of affection. His interview with Caceres (played by Jamie Johnson) is spliced throughout. The show also features Spirit (Jamie Hernandez-Lujan), a drag performer who serves as musical interlude and accent figure throughout the two inter-splicing stories.
Right off the bat, I was captivated and intrigued by Caceres’ story and looked forward to hearing his next chapter. Johnson does fine work with the character — as the story he tells is indeed factual, it provides a visceral edge; you see his story happening in your mind as it is etched on his face. This is a man who’s survived torture and interrogation, labelled a homosexual terrorist and lived to not only tell the tale but to fall in love.
Caceres is the strongest part of the whole production and you want to know more about him, you want him to continue telling his tale. It’s almost frustrating and anti-climatic when the perspective shifts back to Renderos getting aggravated by guys on Tinder.
Not to take away from Renderos’ story but I would’ve liked to hear more about how his interview with Caceres’ shone new perspective on his own life.
As for Spirit, I wonder if the addition was necessary. The musical interludes were fantastic (great musical choices) but I often found Spirit’s drag performance of them stiff and unnatural. Her addition to the two stories unraveling throughout didn’t provide or take away anything.
Caceres’ story is what drives this performance home and for that it’s worth the watch.
Salvador plays at the Annex Theatre (736 Bathurst St, at Bathurst and Lennox).
July 05 at 08:45 PM
July 08 at 06:15 PM
July 10 at 05:15 PM
July 11 at 01:45 PM
July 12 at 09:15 PM
July 13 at 01:45 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Poster image provided by company