Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Also see Dean's review of Tartuffe
To select the seven 10-page plays for "The Seven" on the audience-selected theme of "It's now or never," the Fusion had more than 600 submissions to choose from. The content, in at least some respects, was admirably diverse. The most ambitious of the plays (If We Only Knew, written by Aren Haun of San Francisco, directed by Michael Counts and starring Gerome Olona and Rhiannon Frazier) captures the evolving relationship of a couple over a lifetime. By contrast, another play is limited to the seconds after the destruction of the World Trade Center (Woman on the 97th Floor by Susan Kelejian of Ojai, California, directed by Matthew Yde and starring Blake Magnusson and Jen Grigg). Most of the plays try to capture a moment when a ray of truth penetrates a dialogue between a man and a woman, and by and large they succeed to a surprising extent.
On the other hand, the selection of plays also represents a rather stunning homogeneity. Three of the seven came from California. Most featured a heterosexual couple. None included characters who are Hispanic, black, Asian or American Indian, although these groups constitute a majority of New Mexicans. In this age of immigrant angst, there are no hyphenated Americans. There is, though, one rather clever play (Fluent, written by Chuck Smith of Woodbridge, Virginia, directed by Jacqueline Reid, and starring Stafford Douglas and Nicole Bartlett) about a woman who only speaks French trying to communicate with a man who only speaks English. She ultimately succeeds via an ageless, voiceless tactica kiss.
The jury award winner is Choices, written by James McLindon, of Northampton, Massachusetts, directed by Jim Cady and starring Jacqueline Reid as a counselor and Quinn Scicluna as her client. The client is overloaded with hundreds of thousands of dollars in student debt and doesn't know how to get out from under it. His financial counselor suggests he sign a 20-year contract and take out a life insurance policy. At the end of 20 years he contracts to die, either by his own hand or, if he reneges, at the hand of an assassin. Meanwhile, he makes her company the beneficiary of the policy, which will pay off his debt. You will die, the counselor consoles him, but at least you will get to enjoy the next 20 years. The client is horrified, but well, you get the idea. It's all quite funny.
In a nice twist, "The Seven" includes, along with a dozen Fusion veterans and out-of-town pros, two very young actors. Adam Blanchard appears in the play Stew, written by Alexa Mavromatis of Rumford, Rhode Island, directed by Laurie Thomas and starring Paul Blott, who for his sturdy professionalism and ability to capture the essence of any role he performs was my favorite of the 15 participating actors.
The other youngster is Nate Boone in Streamliners Across America (written by Paul Lewis of Bainbridge Island, Washington, directed by Jen Grigg, with Rachael Wiseman and Bruce Holmes). Despite his youth, Boone exhibits an impressive stage presence and natural delivery that herald a promising acting future.
"The Seven" also includes That's Some Eulogy, a tour de force about a man who uses comic ambiguity to compose a eulogy about a boss he detests. It was written by Paula Fell of Corona del Mar, California, directed by Bruce Holmes and stars Matt Heath and Laurie Thomas.
If you want to see "The Seven," you need to hurry. It will only be staged through Saturday, June 9.
The Seven, June 8, 2019, at the Cell, 700 1st. St. NW, Albuquerque, and Sunday, June 9, 2019, at the KiMo Theater, 423 Central Ave. NW, Albuquerque, in a pay-what you will performance. On Monday at the Cell, there will be readings of the runner-up seven plays. After the Saturday performance, audience votes for the most popular play will be tabulated and announced. For information and reservations, visit www.fusionnm.org or call 505-766-9412.