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Review: GROTTESCO'S SHORTS 5 at Santa Fe Improv

A Night of Short Works

Review: GROTTESCO'S SHORTS 5 at Santa Fe Improv

According to their website, Theater Grottesco creates a new kind of performance that is visual, explosive and full of surprise. The Grottesco Ensemble rekindles interest in live performance by juxtaposing classical and modern theatrical styles with a daring, poetic research of culture and imagination, giving voice to the marginal elements of our contemporary society, and taking audiences to the brink of emotional wonder and soulful reflection.

This can definitely be said of the company's latest offering, Grottesco's Shorts 5, an evening of vignettes and short pieces that are at times hilarious, touching, disturbing and thought provoking. The first piece, Haiku Chorus: Threshhold is a structured improv that takes haikus submitted by audience members and others and puts them to sound and movement. Each member of the five person ensemble for this piece is completely tuned in and engaged to their fellow players, creating a dreamy play of word, dance, sung and spoken word.

The second piece, Henry and the Arroyo, is what we have come to expect from Grottesco Founding Artistic Director John Flax. His Henry shares with us his finds from a trip to the arroyo, creating an endearing character that is at once child-like and worldly wise.

The next piece, A Chapter from the Chronicles of a Psychotechnaut, performed and written by Grottesco Ensemble Member Danielle Reddick, was an excerpt from a longer piece - Reddick engages in a dialogue with her own recorded voice, a conversation between conscious and subconscious, perhaps? It was intriguing enough to warrant more discovery and a longer production in the future.

Next, Myriah Duda's To Break the Bind was an exploration of movement that was both moving and engaging. Duda's ability to literally throw herself into the piece was at times disturbing, bordering on body horror, and completely watchable. This young performer embraces the principles of Grottesco and is someone to watch.

To end the first act, Flax and Ensemble member Koppani Pusztai performed The Border, a short humorous piece about two opposing guards on the watch who have become close. Their ability to convey emotion without any dialogue was impressive, touching and powerful.

After a brief intermission, the ensemble performed chapter 3 of The King Without A Kingdom. According to the program, Chapters one and two were filmed and screened during quarantine. Grottesco's website says that the piece, originally titled The Other, celebrated a family of Buffoons summoned to entertain the King's Court. Together, they share a fairy tale about the son of a wealthy landlord who dreams of becoming King. This structured improv was the epitome of buffoonery, replete with a nonsensical story, exaggerated costuming and movement, and moments of sheer silliness. While this is not my usual favorite type of humor, this ensemble was so committed that I found myself immersed in their funny, fractured fairy tale in spite of myself.

Theater Grottesco plays on the edge - not only is there a place for their work, it seems like a stint with an ensemble so committed to the fringe should be a requirement for all performers. Audience members can't come to a program like this expecting a through line or a moral to the story - as William Hurt's character said in The Big Chill, "Sometimes you just have to let the art wash over you." Trust me, you will be glad you did. Grottesco's Shorts 5 runs through May 21.

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From This Author - Jackie Camborde