SET IN MEXICO CITY in the mid-'90s, Entre Villa y una Mujer Desnuda ("Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman") turns on a love story between two professionals: One who only calls when in the mood, and one who wants more from the relationship. Can you guess which one has a uterus? As you may have deduced, it's the woman, Gina (Nurys Herrera), who swells with excitement before encounters with her lover Adrian (Enrique E. Andrade), but leaves with emotional blue balls.
Adrian and Gina are both smart, successful, and well-to-do. He is a liberal academic writing about Pancho Villa (the Robin Hood-esque Mexican general), and she builds factories. Her intelligence is central to Adrian's attraction to her, and her power also impresses a rival suitor. What develops from there tells us that women are trapped by their desire for elusive men, while the men, as Adrian puts it, evade the female tendency to "convert our passions to a matter of us taking baths together."
Pancho Villa, with ammunition strapped across his chest, appears throughout the play in varying roles. In the beginning, his story is layered into the main narrative, drawing a parallel between Adrian and Pancho Villa, bandits in love as in life. Later, Villa serves as the devil on Adrian's shoulder, coaching him in the art of female manipulation. While lively, these historical inserts fall back on clichés, by which I mean a cannon is brought on stage and doesn't fire (wink, wink).
Entre Villa y una Mujer Desnuda is not some 1950s patriarchal remix, but it does wear its 1994, pre-Sex-and-the-City-era colors flashed across its face. Playwright Sabina Berman is a feminist well known for, among other award-winning works, a series of interviews with leading women in Mexico. However, this play dates from a time before the powerful-woman-centered, sexually honest, relationship deconstruction story had been done and done.
It's frustrating to watch Gina succumb to Adrian, which is to say Herrera succeeds in an irritating role. At her hip, Andrade does fine as the headstrong Adrian. The humor deals in double entendre and physical bedroom jokes (the stage is a studio apartment). It all has its moments, but they're more frequent in Spanish (the language of the performance, with supertitles for gringos). Between Pancho Villa and a naked woman, I'd rather have a naked man.