Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Mynx and Savage
So there was quite a bit riding on the success of the play itself as well, in the production directed by Ray Rey Griego and Caitlyn Jones. Fortunately, the story is strong and the production is solid. In Mynx and Savage, comic book writer Adam Mark Evans (Chris Hughes) is struggling with writer's block as he finishes work on his 99th issue and prepares for the big splash of his 100th. His publisher, fearing a potential writing disaster that could weaken the brand, has sent a new artist-assistant, Ket Thomas (Heather Donovan), to help make sure the process goes well.
At first Adam and Ket clash. Adam was comfortable with his previous assistant who didn't push him creatively. Ket is a fan who connived to get the assignment because she suspects Adam has hidden work that is far superior to the commercial work of his superheroes, Mynx and Savage. Adam is a slacker wannabe who insists he's lazy. But, as with any good drama, nothing is as it seems and there are mysteries to be uncovered.
All the time Adam and Ket are sparring, there is intermittent action on a small elevated stage behind Adam's studio. There are two sets of characters that are doing their own sparing: Mynx (Aleah Montano) and Savage (Gennaro Leo) are living out their superhero lives in Adam's imagination; and the young Adam (Leo) and his boyhood friend Hope Daniels (Montano) live out Adam's early history. We learn through the flashbacks that it is Hope who has come up with the characters Mynx and Savage, except that the male/female roles are reversed in Hope's version of the duo.
The play poses a few questions: How did Hope's childhood superheroes come to be the adult Adam's professional work? What happened to Hope? What's this hidden artistically superior work that Ket is convinced Adam is hiding? Will Ket be able to crack Adam's hiding-from-the world depression and help him finish the 100th issue with a splash while also inspiring him to do his "real" work? All the answers depend on Ket getting through to Adam and helping him overcome his fears. As with any good character clash, her strategy is a combination of encouragement and conformation.
While these questions are all satisfied by the end of the play, the answers are not particularly surprising. Even so, it's fun to see them play out, and the "three plays in one" device is engaging. O'Neill is particularly adept at writing the Adam and Hope characters as children. They are delightfully depicted by Montano and Leo. The relationship between these two 10-year-olds is the heart and love story of the play. The clashes and connections between Adam and Ket are fine, but the real love sparks come from the kids as they each struggle with fear and trauma.
Ray Rey Griego and Caitlyn Jones have directed a number of plays together, including Angels in America Part One: The Millennium Approaches. They do a lovely, caring job with O'Neill's story. The casting of the four actors is fine, with standout performances by Hughes as the adult Adam and Montano as the young Hope.
The staging is tricky, since the story requires three environments. Production stage manager Maris Alma Rivera does a nice job with scenic designer Mary Rossman, props designer Nina Dorrance, comic design by Orion Pike, and even a Mynx and Savage logo design by Anna Woltman. They are supported by a small army of technicians.
The Vortex nabbed a winner with Mynx and Savage. When AACT announced its top six plays for the New PlayFest, the Vortex leaders named Mynx and Savage as their top choice. They got their wish, and we're the beneficiaries. Terrific play supported by a solid production.
Mynx and Savage, through May 13, 2018, at The Vortex Theatre, 2900 Carlisle NE, Albuquerque NM. The show starts at 7:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2:00 pm on Sundays. General admission is $22, $19 for ATG members, and $15 for students and those in an entertainment union. You can buy tickets online at vortexabq.org or by phone at 505-247-8600.