BWW Review: BLOOD AND WATER at Aux Dog Theatre
Blood and Water, the newest production playing at the Aux Dog Theatre (and a world premiere at that) is a strong new piece from Albuquerque based playwright Andy Mayo. Similar to the works of Sam Shepard in construction and tone, the dark comedy examines the relationship between two estranged brothers over one fateful Christmas.
In brief, the brothers in question - Sam and Art - grew up in rural New Mexico under the guidance of their controlling (and not particularly beloved) father. But where Sam (a charismatic turn from Jeff Dolecek) remained in New Mexico, Art (a cool, collected Justin Estes) went off, went to school, and went into business, marrying the magazine editor Steffi (the posh and elegant Tristana Gonzalez) along the way.
Now Art and Steffi have come to visit Sam's extravagant new digs for "Christmas on the Pecos", and it's clear that there is little love lost between the brothers, and Art's city based business career has more to do with Sam's water bottling business and ranch than initially meets the eye. When it is revealed that Steffi has found a letter from a woman who turns out to be from both Sam and Art's pasts, the already tenuous truce between the brothers is threatened further.
The script is, generally, quite strong. There are some moments that I feel could benefit from some minor revisions - some of the motivation towards the end of the first act wasn't necessarily clear, for instance, and I felt like perhaps the final scene could have been streamlined slightly to help the play barrel towards its tragic conclusion.
These are relatively minor things, though, and the piece is still strong and engaging in its current iteration. In particular, I was delighted by the way Mr. Mayo captured the essence of the idea of a specific kind of rural life, particularly in New Mexico (there are, of course, obligatory chile jokes, but they absolutely work).
Additionally, the already intriguing plot is made even more fascinating by the performances of the lead actors, who are all wonderfully cast and have phenomenal chemistry. Victoria Liberatori, Artistic Director at the Aux Dog, as well as director of this production, further supported the storytelling with strong choices in her staging and set design. The sound design by Casey Mraz also helped sell the story (I particularly enjoyed the western/cowboy music preshow music), and Rhonda Backinoff's costumes helped establish the time (1999, in case you were wondering) and place quite well, as well as character traits.
It is my hope that Blood and Water continues to evolve and, most importantly, be produced. Such an interesting homegrown piece deserves as wide an audience as it can get, and I imagine other audiences will enjoy it as much as the crowd I saw it with did this last weekend.
Blood and Water runs Friday-Sunday (Friday and Saturday shows are at 8p, and Sunday shows are at 2p) through September 29th. Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.auxdogtheatre.org, by phone at (505)596-0607, or at the door.