Outlet for creativity
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.