THE HOMBRES – Written by Tony Meneses; Directed by Dana Hart Wright. Produced by Vintage Theatre (1468 Dayton St, Aurora) through July 7. Tickets available at 303-856-7830 or 

Now what would you expect from a production entitled THE HOMBRES. A little mustache twirling – a little leering at girls – a lot of machismo. Sorry to disappoint! THE HOMBRES is a thoughtful, well-articulated discourse on how men grow, if given the opportunity. Playwright Tony Meneses revealed in a recent interview that most of his earlier plays had to do with female characters and situations (as in GUADALUPE IN THE GUEST ROOM and THE WOMEN OF PADILLA). He took on the challenge of writing a play about male friendship with an all male cast as a personal test. He also wanted to challenge the stereotype of Hispanic men raised in machismo by putting them to the test. 

He does this using the device of a gentle gay yoga instructor catching the attention of construction workers on a nearby building. The oldest of the men see the women from the yoga classes leaving the building looking revitalized and happy. Since his wife has asked him to leave their house because of his rough temper, he is intrigued by this transformation. But the shame of doing something as girly as yoga holds him back. His co-workers find out what he’s been doing behind their backs and confront both he and the instructor.  

But what gives this story of male “bonding” its charm is two things. One – the nature of the instructor. He is a genuinely good person and seriously interested in helping his first construction worker client. To the point of breaking the rules of his contract to do so. And two, as portrayed by newcomer Conrad Mata, as an audience member, you never doubt his motives and you trust his good heart and intentions. It’s easy to believe that Conrad just traded his street clothes for a costume and came into the theatre to act out his life. It’s that authentic. This is a young man with both acting and dancing chops; I can’t wait to see what he does next. 

A long time actor from Su Teatro, Joaquin Liebert’s age and rough edges also lend authenticity to the role of Hector who wants desperately to get back with his wife. The scene where the two meet for the first time and circle each other mentally trying to figure out what each wants from the other is a delight in understatement. To watch their friendship grow is to watch the crumbling of walls. 

Brandon Lopez and Brandon Billings bring the pot to a boil, letting their old prejudices guide the way for far too long as the younger workers Pedro and Beto. Fearful that somehow their manhood is jeopardized by their friend’s actions, they take a hard stance. But the good will and understanding of Julian along with the guidance of Hector leads to an unexpected happy ending. The play could have ended quite respectfully one or two minutes before it did. But playwright Meneses found a way of adding a coda to the whole experience that expanded the delight of the evening. 

Michael Gurshtein plays Miles, another lost soul trying to make a friend and find his place in a troubled world. While his place in the scheme of things is not as clearly defined as the other roles, he plays a man unsure of himself and struggling to find himself who also falls under the gentle guidance of Julian.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this is actually the kind of theatre that can change minds. It gives you a peek into human nature at its best, that racism cuts both ways even when it doesn’t have to, and with patience and humor, it is possible to overcome your fears. This is one not to miss. 

A WOW factor of 9!!  

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