Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

Electoral Dysfunctions
Vortex Theatre
Review by Wally Gordon


Arthur Alpert is a slender, white-haired, slightly stooped man who is generally polite and mild. He looks and speaks and behaves nothing like Donald Trump. But when he walks onto the stage of Albuquerque's Vortex Theater with a yellow wig and gleefully concludes a monologue with Trump's iconic line, "Believe me," for that moment you do believe he is Donald Trump. (Of course, you don't believe a thing Alpert says, any more than many people believe what Trump says, which is apparently why the GOP presidential nominee reiterates "Believe me" after each unbelievable statement.)

Alpert, an experienced actor as well as a veteran of newspaper, radio, and television (and co-author of the website ABQ Journal Watch), and his co-master of ceremonies, Yolanda Luchetti Knight (as Trump's wife Melania), are the glue that sticks together the pastiche of eight 10-minute skits collectively titled Electoral Dysfunctions for Albuquerque's Vortex Theatre.

Alpert opens his monologue, "Yes it's me. I'm going to do the introductions. Why me? I'm the only one who can do it." The laughter is the loudest of the evening.

This is hardly the first such performance in the Duke City. The Vortex produced a similar collection of one-act plays on the them of elections in 2008. And every June, the Fusion Theatre puts on The Seven, a montage of seven one-act plays with a different theme each year. That the Vortex was nearly sold out for a matinee on a beautiful Sunday afternoon speaks to the popularity of the theme as the presidential election campaign moves into high gear.

The scripts are uneven in quality and diverse in setting, featuring everything from a meeting of Ben Franklin with a 21st-century-style political consultant to a scene that occurs after Trump takes over the White House to a woman illustrating how power grows out of the barrel of a gun. Although all the skits struggle with the limitations of the brief format, collectively they illustrate the ways in which political contests serve and disserve a nation whose democracy depends on them.

The plays are The End by JB Saavedra, Thump-Trumper of the GOP by Kathleen Matthews, Prude and Prejudice by Susan Erickson, The Reluctant Nominee by Richard E. Peck, Selection by Jim Hisler, Two Ears, One Mouth by Liz McMaster, Tied Up by Hugo Patino-Cano, and Heaven by Berry Simon.

The acting in these brief dramas and comedies is by and large superb. The large cast is professional, in experience and talent if not in compensation. And I am fond of the Vortex's design with banks of seats arrayed above all four sides of the central acting space.

With 15 actors and eight directors, coordinating the performance is a complex job that the invariably professional Vortex pulls off with nary a tick. But I'd like to see them do a political play, whether drama or comedy, that gives writer, actors and director the time and space to develop a fully realized vision of what catalyzes America's political circus.

Electoral Dysfunctions continues at the Vortex Theatre, 2900 Carlisle NE in Albuquerque, through September 11, 2016, with Friday and Saturday performances at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. For reservations and information call 505-247-8600 or go to www.vortexabq.org.


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