Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Savage/Love is Plenty Savage
UNM Dept. of Theatre and Dance
Review by Rob Spiegel

Also see Rob's reviews of The Night Alive and Stage Kiss


Austin Embree, Sarah Lauren Lopez, Patrick Charles Holle, Haley Henson, Shawn West, and Livianna Rodriquez Raja
Photo Courtesy of UNM Theatre and Dance
According to director Kim Carlozzi, the goal of this production of the Sam Shepard/Joseph Chaikin play Savage/Love was "to present a show everyone involved could relate to." Score one. The play is quite easy to relate to, since it focuses on the illusions, tricks, excitement, and thrill of first romantic encounters and early love. Along with those positives, we also get plenty of early love's darkness: the insecurity, the false sensation of specialness, the brutal turns and betrayals, the deep loneliness that comes when a powerful connection is broken, the ultimate delusion.

Shepard has long written about the difficulties of love in plays such as Fool for Love, and here he teams up with playwright Joseph Chaikin. The script is actually a series of 19 poems that are joined together to create a one-act play. In the UNM production, it runs about an hour.

With six actors, this production brings the poetic text to life. Carlozzi has made some interesting decisions on movement. The performance is not quite dance, but the choreography is certainly musical. And while some of the staging and movement is inexplicable, most of it works.

The actors are three women (Sarah Lauren Lopez, Haley Henson, and Livianna Rodriquez Raja) and three men (Austin Embree, Patrick Charles Holle, and Shawn West). They are uniformly good. No standouts, thank goodness, as a particularly strong performance by one of the actors would disrupt the balance.

If there's one strong message to the movement, it's that it doesn't matter who's with whom. The pain and crushed dreams of early love is not mitigated by any specific pairing. One actor actually says she's preparing herself for someone she has not yet met. We get the message: anyone who comes along—it doesn't matter who it is—will set the disaster into motion. Taking the dreariness even deeper, the couple who "work on it" come to the same broken end.

Carlozzi does a wonderful job keeping the material moving. It could have bogged down so easily, since the words offer little relief from their ruthless look at what really happens when someone seems to have a twinkle in the eye for another at the post office. And what happens after that first glance is not pretty. The play shows how easily "love" can dissolve into physical brutality.

Yet Carlozzi and her team of young actors manage to squeeze some beauty out of these dark words—the beauty of honesty, the beauty of young movement, the beauty of that initial spark of attraction which has its own brief, though seemingly eternal, brilliance no matter how doomed.

Savage/Love by Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin, in a UNM production directed by Kim Carlozzi. The production runs at the UNM Experimental Theatre in the Popejoy Complex through November 22, 2015. Performances are on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm. Tickets are $12 for general admission, $10 for faculty and seniors, and $8 for staff and students. Tickets are available at all UNM ticket offices, online at unmtickets.com, or by calling 925-5858.


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