Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Love Theater? Get Thee to And Away We Go
Fittingly, everything that happens on stage is really seen from backstage. The audience glimpses just how much goes into mounting a productioncostumes and masks and cannons, and money, yes, but also blood, sweat and, tears. Although the action is centered around a representative few of the classics (Aeschylus, Shakespeare at The Globe, Chekhov in Moscow, Molière during the French Revolution, Beckett in Miami), this romp through theatrical history is anything but academic.
Six local actors play 36 parts: Gene Corbin, Colleen McClure, Shangreaux LaGrave, and Linda Williams are the veterans; able newcomers Kristen Ryan and Bryan Lambe are there to assure us that theater will go on for many more generations. That is a theme of the play, humanity's perennial thirst for theater. Under Brian Hansen's snappy direction, the six actors briskly come and go in various costumes, roles and time periods. In many guises and situations and centuries, the play's action is at once surprising and so very familiar because theater is forever. In fact, the fluidity of time is paramount here, for it emphasizes the eternal yearning to see and feel human emotions played out in drama and comedy.
It is also very funny. Characters surprise each other or are oblivious to interlopers from the future or past. Either way we laugh. An actor from The Oresteia is handed a stage pistol from another era's show. A self-centered French actor tries to seduce, well, everyone. At one point, a 21st-century character says, "Cool outfits. I thought the next show was Streetcar."
Corbin as Male Actor 1 treats us to his voice, deep and balcony-reaching, and his imposing stage presence. He is learned as the mask maker, deftly comic when called on, affecting when playing an actor who sees his chance at Lear slipping away. McClure is spot on as a board member who loves the theater and is trying to insinuate herself in any way she can. When she finally finds that waywatch out. This role in particular points out another ongoing facet of the actor's life: a love/hate relationship with the audience. Through McClure's portrayal, we are affectionately teased.
LaGrave is a versatile actor who can handle anything, from that oily Frenchman to a homosexual actor dying of AIDS. McNally has written extensively about the AIDS epidemic and the scene LaGrave finely plays in And Away We Go harks back to McNally classics like Lips Together, Teeth Apart and the newer Mothers and Sons.
Williams's characters are grounded in an absolute faith that theater will always matter and poor pay, crummy props, dishonest producers, and wacko fellow travelers are just part of the package, in any century. She embodies the trouper. Lambe and Ryan bring fresh-faced enthusiasm and acting chops to their multiple roles; we want to see them again and soon. Lambe fully inhabits each one of his roles and has a rare maturity and versatile good looks.
Women were not allowed to act in English public theaters until 1660. Ryan is archetypal (and funny as hell) as the lone voice of Woman crying out for a part, any part.
One spark of McNally's authorial brilliance is that, no matter your general knowledge of theater history, if you don't get all of the references, it doesn't matter. Everyone will get the overall, important picture. Theater will always be. Actors and plays and backers and audiences are the same now as then. And we love them for it.
Through October 18, 2015, at the Vortex Theatre, 2900 Carlisle NE. For tickets and information, call (505) 247-8600 or visit vortexabq.org/