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I Wanna Hold Your Hand: An Evening of One Acts
The Vortex Theatre


Benjamin Liberman and
Ashley Weingardt

Three one-act plays; three casts; three playwrights; three young, up-and-coming Albuquerque directors. I Wanna Hold Your Hand: An Evening of One Acts runs through January 20 at The Vortex this month. The production aims to feature "the Duke City's next generation" of theatre practitioners, as explained on their website. As the show's title suggests, each play is a love story of sorts, whether it's a story of romantic love, familial love, or love of imagination.

I'll do this play-by-play: up first is Soft Dude, written by Joe Pintauro and directed by Stephanie Grilo. Grilo is a theatre student at the University of New Mexico, and Soft Dude marks her Albuquerque directing debut. She guides her actors through the story of Dude, played by Benjamin Liberman, and his prostitute girlfriend Doll, played by Ashley Weingardt, who must navigate the paradox of a call girl who feels dirty and unwanted because the one man she cares about, Dude, can't "get it up" to have sex with her. Meanwhile, Dude just wants to have a normal dinner and hold Doll's hand, basic romantic activities that Doll, in another paradox, can't seem to get comfortable with. Weingardt does well as the tough-on-the-outside prostitute with hidden inner struggles, and Liberman's Dude is effectively simple yet sensitive. The emotional and physical pacing of the play flows well, balancing humor, anger, sadness, and tender moments with just enough blocking to keep it interesting, so kudos to Grilo there.

Next up is The Lady of Larkspur Lotion by Tennessee Williams, directed by first-timer Natalie Wilding. I've yet to see a Tennessee Williams play I didn't like, and this is no exception—aside, perhaps, from the somewhat odd opening minutes featuring Mrs. Hardwick-Moore, played by Christy Lopez, repeating the same actions over and over. I was a bit confused as to the purpose of this (which I assume was a directorial choice), except that it might be a way to more firmly establish Mrs. Hardwick-Moore's character as a fidgety, neurotic, nervous woman, which Lopez certainly achieves in these early moments and sustains throughout the play. Alisia Downing expertly plays her sassy, suspicious landlady, Mrs. Wire, who has come to demand Mrs. Hardwick-Moore's late rent. Finally, there's Ed Chavez as The Writer, a man suffering from some physical illness as well as the illness of writer's block; however, his monologue demonstrates his way with words and respect for the human imagination. Chavez's performance is impressive and his training from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts shows: from his accent to his cough, his delivery is the most natural. It may seem trivial, but I'm always impressed when actors can master the smallest human ticks that we often don't even notice, like a recurring cough, and Chavez does.

The show closes with Anton Chekhov's The Marriage Proposal, a comedy about the pitfalls young newlyweds may encounter—petty arguments, family tension, miscommunication. The catch is that the couple isn't even engaged yet, and UNM student and director Matthew McVey Lee helps bring Chekhov's humor to life. The one-act features Kevin O'Boyle as Ivan Vassilievich Lomov, Allie Sundstrom as his intended fiancée Natalya, and Tyler A. Strand as her father. The three have good onstage chemistry and comedic timing.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand: An Evening of One Acts runs through January 20, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm and Sundays at 2:00pm. Tickets are $18 and reservations can be made by calling 505-247-8600. More information at vortexabq.org.


Photo: Alan Mitchell Photography

--Sarah Parro



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