BWW Review: ELLIOT: A SOLDIER'S FUGUE at Teatro Paraguas
Elliot - Trilogy Off to a Dreamy Start
In music, a fugue takes a short melody or phrase, introduces one part and successively adds in new lines, interweaving the parts to create the whole. Sometimes the parts are similar but they can also be dissonant or disjointed - however, they somehow manage to come together to form a cohesive piece of music.
That's exactly what Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue feels like - the three interwoven stories of three generations of men from one family going to war, each generation having their own individual experience, but one that is eerily echoed by each successive generation. The characters rarely interact; it's really a series of soliloquies on each soldier's experience - Grandpop's time served in Korea, Pop's Vietnam tour of duty and Elliot's experience in the Middle East. Each man has his story to tell, and the glue holding them all together is Ginny, Elliot's mother, Pop's Wife, Grandpop's daughter-in-law. Each soldier takes his place at center stage to talk about his experience, whether it's what happened on the battlefield that day or what he was thinking of from his army cot at night. Each soldier shares his letters to loved ones, his feelings and reactions to the war raging around him.
There were times during my viewing of Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue that I felt like I was not altogether there - not asleep, but in that kind of "not-really-asleep-but-not-fully-conscious" place usually reserved for deep meditation or dreaming. The thoughtful and well-choreographed direction of Alix Hudson was dead-on for the material - even though the characters rarely spoke to one another, they feel indelibly connected.
The performances of all four actors were superlative - Luca Pacheco plays Elliot, the youngest of the family, with a quiet confidence and easy nature that immediately draws the audience into his story. In his bio, this New Mexico School for the Arts student says he "studies theater five days a week and dreams about it the other two." His commitment to his craft shines in this performance.
Niko'a Salas as Pop brings a level of mania to his performance that feels like it could bubble over at any time. Elliot says in his monologues that his dad doesn't like to talk about the war, and through Pop's soliloquies we understand why. Salas' natural energy feels a little scary, like he's never fully left Vietnam.
As Grandpop, Rudy "Froggy" Hernandez turns in a thoughtful, heart-felt performance - his moments of quiet contemplation, flute playing and stories paint a vivid picture of a soldier's life during the Korean War.
Ginny is the through line for the three soldiers, providing a soft place to land for her troubled husband, a comforting presence for Grandpop and someone to look forward to coming home to for Elliot. Juliet Salazar is perfectly cast as the nurturer, the caretaker and the mother of all the characters.
Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue is the first part of a three by Pulitzer-Prize winning author Quiara Alegria Hudes - the trilogy is being mounted by three Santa Fe theater companies in October - Teatro Paraguas, Ironweed Productions and Santa Fe Playhouse. Audience members can see any or all three parts throughout the month of October at the two Teatro stages and Santa Fe Playhouse; kudos to all three companies for having the collaborative spirit to bring this trilogy to life. Santa Fe needs more important and meaningful theater like this year round.
Elliot: A Soldier's Fugue plays September 262-October 13, Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 2pm
Tickets: teatroparaguas.org or 505-424-1601.