Out­let for cre­ativ­ity

Pasatiempo - - Pasa Reviews -

Theater Grottesco’s OM: Ten Tiny Epics in an Out­let Mall Fashion Out­lets of Santa Fe, Aug. 29 As the ac­tors of Theater Grottesco dance, float, swim, spelunk, and oth­er­wise nav­i­gate their way through OM: Ten Tiny Epics in an Out­let Mall, a se­quence of brief the­atri­cal scenes that opened this past week­end at the Fashion Out­lets of Santa Fe, they make one point con­sis­tently with­out ever voic­ing it: lim­i­ta­tions can prove help­ful in spurring cre­ativ­ity. For arts or­ga­ni­za­tion these days, the most painful lim­i­ta­tion is of­ten fi­nan­cial; but while OM is ob­vi­ously not a big-bud­get pro­duc­tion, it al­ways seems to have enough re­sources to achieve what it sets out to do, and it shows more in­ge­nu­ity than many a more richly en­dowed en­ter­tain­ment.

The whole evening in­volves only three ac­tors — John Flax, Rod Har­ri­son, and Kate Kita. Af­ter the fact, it was hard to be­lieve there weren’t more, so seam­lessly did they evap­o­rate and reap­pear in new guises. The per­form­ing space is far from grandiose — un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances it serves as the com­pany’s stor­age and re­hearsal space — but it pro­vides rea­son­ably com­fort­able seat­ing and good sight­lines for about 70 at­ten­dees. The stage is ringed by 26 doors of var­i­ous de­signs, which are func­tional and dec­o­ra­tive. Cos­tumes and light­ing, while not lav­ish, are fully up to the de­mands of the work at hand. When all is said and done, all the hard­ware is ic­ing on the cake, and the com­pany has done an ad­mirable job of con­vey­ing the im­port of theater through the es­sen­tial stuff: a good script, com­mit­ted act­ing, clear di­rec­tion, and deft stage­craft.

The 10 tiny plays are mostly the cre­ations of the three ac­tors, but a few draw in­put from other cre­ative types. Va­ri­ety is the or­der of the day. Some of the works are in­fused with hu­mor, such as the open­ing In the Gar­den, in which God (who iden­ti­fies him­self spooner­is­ti­cally as “a shov­ing leopard”) is ma­ni­a­cally an­noyed at the hu­mans he has cre­ated be­cause they have been eat­ing “the lit­tle birdies”; or Mod­eled, a tri­par­tite playlet (based on Ul­rich Seidl’s doc­u­men­tary film Mod­els) through which we eaves­drop on air-headed gym bun­nies as they con­verse about their spir­i­tual as­pi­ra­tions. Some pieces are deadly se­ri­ous: in The Bal­lad of Gary and Ni­cole, we sneak a peak in­side the mind of the mur­derer Gary Gilmore on the verge of his ex­e­cu­tion, and :::pod::: draws par­al­lel por­traits of an as­tro­naut stranded in outer space and a whale chart­ing an aim­less course in the North Pa­cific.

The evening in­ter­min­gles moods and topics in an agree­able tra­jec­tory. Most of the pieces run be­tween three and five min­utes, which in most cases seems enough but not too much. By far the long­est, at 17 min­utes, is House­keep­ing, a col­lab­o­ra­tive work that is ap­par­ently the re­sult of the com­pany’s im­pro­vi­sa­tions but is re­fined into a cap­ti­vat­ing, even poignant, scene based on the un­sus­pected drama that in­fuses the work of two fel­lows who clean (and, to some ex­tent, “clean out”) ho­tel rooms. Here the stage’s doors are put to con­stant use.

The evening con­cludes with an ex­cel­lently writ­ten piece, The Devil’s Larder, drawn from a short story by Bri­tish author Jim Crace — an el­e­gant mono­logue in which a but­ler con­tem­plates the mys­tery of a tin can that has lost its la­bel.

This in­trigu­ing as­sort­ment of dra­matic scenes runs to 75 min­utes with­out an in­ter­mis­sion. Though mod­est in its ma­te­rial re­sources, OM packs a po­etic punch.

— James M. Keller Per­for­mances of Theater Grottesco’s “OM: Ten Tiny Epics in an Out­let Mall” con­tinue at 7 p.m. Thurs­days through Sun­days through Sept. 26 at Fashion Out­lets of Santa Fe, 8380 Cer­ril­los Road. Tick­ets are $18, $8 for stu­dents; on Thurs­days, pay what you wish; 474-8400 & www.the­ater­grottesco.org.

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