Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
The Drunken City
A frothy comedy of flailing love and failing friendship lights up downtown Albuquerque's tiny Cell Theatre in a new production by Duke City Rep of Adam Bock's The Drunken City.
Three young suburban women in their 20s get all dolled up and celebrate their engagements with a heavy-drinking night in the big city. While partying, they encounter a couple of young men. The combination of too much alcohol, attractive strangers, and desperate flirtations exposes tensions between, and more importantly within, the friends.
The way their world is turned upside down is dramatized twice with raucous seconds of strobe lights and tumbling bodies. "The city tilts," as director Ezra Colón quoted the script's directions during a talkback session with the audience after the show. Colón explained, The city is alive. It is a character.
The 75-minute, one-act comedy was initially produced in New York in 2008. It is a lot of show for the small Cell venue. The six characters more than fill the stage, racing from one end to the other, bustling around each other, struggling emotionally and occasionally physically with each other, tap dancing, prancing, and launching themselves at the audience. Colón commented that the stage is unique in Albuquerque in being extremely long and shallow. One unfortunate byproduct is that when the actors are conversing with each other, some of them turn their backs to the audience.
The six actors all seem to be having fun with this comedy, and consequently the audience does too. Beginning on the verge of slapstick as the drunken ladies kick up their heals, the play gradually deepens and saddens, reaching an emotional peak when Marnie (Katie Becker Colón, the director's wife) screams at the top of her lungs at her close friend Melissa (Ashley Daniels), "I'm not talking to you anymore." The moment is so dramatic that Katie Colón confessed later she found it awkward and embarrassing.
The psychology of the characters is developed simultaneously on two levels, which constantly converge, diverge, rotate around each other, and ultimately spin out of control. One level is that of love, which is hardly satisfying to anyone on stage; the other is friendship, which is seriously threatened by the demands placed upon it. "Sisters before misters," Katie Colón pungently expressed it during the talkback.
The fine cast also includes Amelia Ampuero, founder and artistic director of Duke City Rep, as Linda, the third of the three female friends; Frank Taylor Green, also a founder of the company, as Eddie; Willis Miller, who is engaged to Daniels, as Frank; and Josh Heard as Bob. Stage manager Alicia Webb has used ingenious color panels to split the stage lengthwise to make more room for the rambunctious cast.
The Drunken Citycontinues through May 29, 2016, at The Cell Theatre, 700 1st St. NW in Albuquerque. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets and information call 505-797-7081 or go to www.dukecityrep.com. The website says the show is recommended for audiences over 16 years old, but with no vivid swearing, nudity, or graphic sex or violence, the restriction seems unnecessary.