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Trust
Duke City Repertory Theatre

Also see Rosemary's review of After Darwin

Trust
Georgina H. Hernandez and Amelia Ampuero
Duke City Repertory Company is Albuquerque's newest theatre company and already among its most ambitious. Founded by an artistic leadership team comprised of Amelia Ampuero and Janaiah Tanner (both Albuquerque natives recently returned) in collaboration with Kristi Wiley and Frank Taylor Green, Duke City Repertory Company bills itself as "Albuquerque's newest professional theatre" invested in serving its audience by providing "top-notch, bold theatre that inspires and transforms." For the first production in its Inaugural Season, Duke City Repertory partners with Albuquerque's The Filling Station Arts Space and Vancouver-based director Guy Fauchon to present Trust by Steven Dietz.

Trust is a dramatic comedy of contemporary manners that introduces six characters and charts their stumbles along love's path, a complicated trek made all the more treacherous by lust, lies and rock music. Becca (DCRT Artistic Director Amelia Ampuero) is readying for her marriage to Cody (Miles Villanueva), a rock musician newly arrived to the precipice of stardom. Wedding dress designer Gretchen (Georgina H. Escobar) and former rock legend Leah (Elizabeth Dwyer Sandlin)—who were once quite close—separately meet each of the soon-to-be newlyweds and commence charged new friendships with the young couple ... and each other. Twenty-something hellion Holly (Lauren Myers) seems to already know everyone, except Roy (DCRT Associate Artistic Director Frank Taylor Green), a public radio announcer who would very much like to know her. As the lives of these characters intersect in incrementally surprising ways, the play ponders the perhaps unanswerable question: Which comes first—love or trust?

While the ostensible subject of Steven Dietz's play is contemporary relationships, the substance of Trust can be heard in the playwright's use of language. As a writer, Dietz delights in voluminous furls of words. Characters speak in monologue almost as often as they do in dialogue, and when Dietz's characters do talk to each other, their conversational threads skitter this way and that, creating poetic flumes of comic possibilities as each speaker assesses the other's meanings and motives. Several of the play's most captivating sequences arrive in the form of soliloquies wherein one character addresses the audience and describes in novelistic detail the intimate experience of observing another. To be sure, Dietz's rhythms are not necessarily those of actual conversation, but his words evoke the funny yet vulnerable patter of intimate connection. Dietz's way with language makes Trust an often delicious play to hear, and Duke City Repertory's capable ensemble handles the technical and emotive demands of Dietz's words with subtlety and aplomb.

Trust's six-member ensemble cast is uniformly strong. Amelia Ampuero develops a reticent strength for bride-to-be Becca, an appealing (but appropriately inadequate) bravado for a character who must be constantly vulnerable while never really admitting it. As rock star Cody, by turns the play's most nave and its most predatory character, Miles Villanueva aptly conveys the complexity of a basically good guy accustomed to many of love's rewards but few of its demands. As the emotionally guarded Gretchen, Georgina H. Escobar shows us a woman who has meticulously crafted every aspect of the self she shows the world, while also subtly communicating the depth of Gretchen's longing with every line. Elizabeth Dwyer Sandlin conveys comparable nuance in what might be the play's most difficult role of Leah Barnett, and Lauren Myers blasts each scene with a palpable energy that both demonstrates and explains exactly who party girl Holly is. As sad sack Roy, Frank Taylor Green's facility with language combines with evident comedic instinct to elicit empathetic laughter with each appearance.

Director Guy Fauchon shepherds these disparate characters through their abutting episodes with clarity and confidence, engaging the idiosyncrasies of The Filling Station's playing space as he does. (Once an automotive garage on historic Route 66, The Filling Station is now a versatile black box theatre, albeit with load-bearing beams and external doors in occasionally inconvenient places.) Fauchon and set designer Charles Murdock Lucas position five light stanchions in a semi-circle facing downstage, utilizing "roadie" cases and wood crates to function as furniture throughout. This set concept neatly transforms the "black box" into a subtle evocation of a rock venue, while also reminding us that all of these characters are performing as much for each other as for us (a fact Fauchon underscores by having the ensemble remain visible in the wings at most times). In his staging, however, the challenges of the space sometimes trouble Fauchon's general clarity. While several scenes utilize the wood beam at center to great effect, others—most notably, a pivotal early scene between Leah and Cody—get nearly lost in the space's competing sightlines. That said, Fauchon clearly possesses a compelling visual sensibility, and I look forward to seeing him explore this space again when he directs DCRT's upcoming production of David Mamet's Oleanna in October.

With their inaugural production, Duke City Repertory Theatre invites its audiences to "trust" them to deliver quality work and, based on the work on display in Trust, Albuquerque theatergoers are well advised to do so.

Trust by Steven Dietz, presented by Duke City Repertory Company and directed by Guy Fauchon, runs through August 29, 2010, at The Filling Station, 1024 4th Street SW, in Albuquerque's historic Barelas neighborhood. Show times are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 2 pm. $20 general admission; $12 for seniors, students and military. For reservations, call 505-506-4418 or visit www.dukecityrep.com/.


Photo: Elizabeth Dwyer Sandlin

See the schedule of theatre productions in the Albuquerque area

-- Brian Eugenio Herrera



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