In A.B. Lugo’s sassy drama Banjee, you don’t really get much more than its provocative naked-torso promo card promises: “Angel and Tony are young, tough . . . and for sale. Just don’t tell their girlfriends.” Treat it like you’re watching a telenovela or reading one of those Decisión AIDS comics in the subway and you’ll have a great time. Angel (Indio
Melendez) and Tony (Will
Sierra), best friends and over the hill as hustlers at 30, hang out in a gay bar called La Belle Vie, trading snaps with the high-drama-queen bartender, José (Andre Rodriguez), a/k/a “Sorraida.” Uptown, their girlfriends, Marlena (Marilyn T.) and Ileana (Iris Ay), who are
also best friends, wait around nights wondering where the boys are. Marlena’s an ambitious community college
student, Ileana spends most
of her time fixing her makeup.
The men concoct elaborate rules and rationales to keep their sex with men from drifting into gayness: they only let guys suck them off, they don’t allow kissing, and embraces are kept to a minimum. Angel puts on a security guard uniform between home and ho’ing to keep
Marlena in the dark. Of course, someone slips up and brings a matchbook home from the bar, and the gatos are out of the bag. The women’s responses are
predictably outrageous, especially since their boyfriends’ philandering-for-pay causes a bigger spat than their already warring personalities can handle. The length of the womens’ monologues and their melodramatic, rough-edged acting become ends in themselves, pulling you through the weepy and somewhat ridiculous
situations that follow. Marlena begins to forgive Angel, who goes straight; Tony is lured off by a tall, dark, and handsome Latin guy; and life goes on for José. They’re old clichés, but they come off fresh in Banjee‘s new bottle.