‘Agony of Ecstasy’ production tackles gender norms

A woman and a man, loosely dressed as dentists, peer into your mouth. The woman is holding a knife and fork while the man holds sticks with horned balls on the end.

By Miguel Gastelum, Communication Specialist for the Department of Theatre and Dance

Fresno State University Theatre presents their fifth virtual production of our 2020 -2021 mainstage season, “The Agony of Ecstasy,” written by Sabina Berman, translated by Adam Versenyí, and directed by Gina Sandí-Díaz. 

“The Agony of Ecstasy” will stream online at 7:30 p.m. May 7-8 and May 11-15. A matinee performance stream at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 9, will be followed by a 3:30 p.m. talkback with the translator, Adam Versenyí. Talkback registration is free. Streaming access for all performances is $15 general admission and $10 for students. 

The Agony of Ecstasy poster

“The Agony of Ecstasy” is a compilation of four short plays exploring the performative aspects of gender norms and the power struggle at the heart of human relationships. “The Moustache” introduces us to a couple who struggles to accept their true selves and has resorted to using a fake mustache to ‘perform’ gender in public. “The Love Nest” explores the toxic patriarchal construct of femininity in the triad of virgin, mother, and whore. “The Pistol” is about a married couple that fights over the control of a pistol the husband brought home for protection, or is there an ulterior motive? In “Teeth,” a sadistic dentist and his nurse terrorize a client’s month, although she could just be hallucinating. This production delivers punch after punch in a rollercoaster of emotion and passion. 

Images from “The Moustache,” “The Love Nest,” "The Pistol" and "Teeth"
Images from “The Moustache,” “The Love Nest,” “The Pistol” and “Teeth”

“Many factors are at play when we select the shows that become our season, and this year was particularly difficult due to the pandemic,” says Sandí-Díaz. “We had to work with significant restrictions, and so, I was searching for a versatile piece, and I wanted something the students could relate to. For multiple reasons, this piece was the right fit. I was excited to break it apart with the students because there are so many layers of meaning in the relationships Berman crafted in these stories. We had intense conversations about the subtle and not-so-subtle violence that patriarchal gender norms impose on people. These conversations are not only intellectually rewarding, but they develop empathy, connectivity, and compassion, something we all needed and appreciated.”

The production was rehearsed and filmed in the Dennis and Cheryl Woods Theatre, following strict Federal, State, and University protocols to ensure a safe, clean, and socially distant production environment. 

The cast includes Diego Barba, Cecilia Cantu, Cynthia Carranza, Joshua Clark, Alexis Gonzales, Krishan Joshi, Emily King, Juanita Mendez, and Andrew Trevino.
For more information, contact the box office at 559.278.7512 or universitytheatre@csufresno.edu.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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