Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Inevitable, by Bethany Dickens, manages somehow to capture not one but a multiplicity of lives in a funny, energetic, highly charged, fast-moving and thoroughly engaging 10 minutes or so of marvelous theater. It is nothing less than a tour de force by a young woman from Columbus, Ohio, whose day job is administrator for the local orchestra. I suspect we will be hearing a lot more about her in the coming years.
The setup for the brief skit is that a young nerd meets a beautiful girl and tries to decide whether to pursue a potential affair. He spins out in his mind and diagrams on a whiteboard various scenarios, all of which end badly. Nevertheless, he ultimately decides to give it a try. Why not? It is pure magic.
Helping along with the comic development of the skit are the experienced directing of Jacqueline Reid and the skilled acting of Isaac Christie as the young nerd, Rhiannon Frazier as the girl Juliet, and Paul Blott (who seems to excel at whatever tasks are assigned him) in a variety of quite funny supporting roles.
The seven skits making up Fusion's offering, eponymously tilted The Seven, also include two well-crafted bits by Jim Henry, an award-winning playwright, screenwriter and actor from Chicago. It is exceptional for Fusion's jury to have selected two plays by the same author, but Henry clearly deserves the honor.
His The Prototype and The Big 5-0 have a lot in common. In the former, a father and son move from anger to affection in the course of a few minutes. In the latter, a mother and daughter travel the same journey. In such a brief time, his ability to bring the characters alive, establish a narrative arc, and affirm a kind of universal parental bond is remarkable.
The two plays are directed by Juli Hendren and Michale L. Counts and performed by Jeannie McClellan, Reid, Grey Blanco and Laurie Thomas.
The Seven's bill is filled out by four other plays which, though of less distinction, have virtues that make for enjoyable and thoughtful entertainment. Death Defying by Stephen Kaplan of Bogota, New Jersey, is about two women waiting for auditions for their circus acts. It is directed by Paul Ford and acted by Angela Littleton and Rachel Nelson-Schiller.
When the Sun Goes Down, written by Jonathan Cook of North Augusta, South Carolina, directed by Thomas and preformed by Zoey Reese, Emma Boisselle and Maerie Siopy, describes three sisters reunited while waiting for the world to end.
With Open Eyes, written by Karen Sabo of Boone, North Carolina, is about a marriage proposal derailed when the young girl confesses her suspicion that her mother was kidnapped and impregnated by an alien in Roswell, New Mexico. It is directed by David Sinkus and stars Stafford Douglas and Emily Berkley, with Blott again in an amusing supporting role.
The remaining skit, Waiting for to Go, by Paul McCormick of San Francisco, is about a couple eating in a fancy restaurant before attending a party. The couple is played by Hakim Bellamy and Caroline Graham, and the piece is directed by Aaron Worley. The man proposes marriage to his hesitant girlfriend. The cynical waiter, played by Blott, has seen it all time and time again but is so affected by the couple's obvious love that he concludes, "Maybe they will make it."
The practiced production staff at Fusion makes the numerous shifts in sets and props on an open stage without a curtain seem smooth and almost effortless.
The seven new, brief plays, each limited to a 10-page script, were selected by a jury from submissions from 40 states and eight countries. Inevitable won the Andaluz Award Jury Prize. The members of the audience also are voting on their own choice.
The show opened to a sell-out house on June 7 and, in an unusual schedule for Albuquerque, will continue consecutive days through Monday June 11. (The performances will be followed the next week by The Second Seven, consisting of the seven runner-up scripts.)
The Seven, through June 11, 2018, at the Cell Theater, 700 1st ST. NW, Albuquerque NM. The final performance, which will be pay-what-you-will, is at the KiMo Theater, 423 Central Ave. NW, Albuquerque NM. For tickets and information, visit www.fusionnm.org or call 505-766-9412.