Review: TWO ARTISTS IN PRISON at Teatro Paraguas Second Stage

an original Theatrical Production by Theater Grottesco

By: May. 29, 2024
Review: TWO ARTISTS IN PRISON at Teatro Paraguas Second Stage
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Two Artists in Prison

Theater Grottesco

May 23 – June 9

“Most theater companies choose their plays. Grottesco’s reveal themselves.”

Thus begins the director’s notes for Theater Grottesco’s Two Artists in Prison, now playing at Teatro Paraguas’ Second Stage space. The play, co-directed by Grottesco Founder John Flax and Apollo Garcia Orellana, takes place in a dystopian future where artists are locked away at the hands of an authoritarian regime. The prisoners are forced to tell their captors stories on a daily basis; if they are entertaining, they get to remain, if not, the consequences are dire. 

The two artists are played by local actors Danielle Louise Reddick and Mona Malec. They are already onstage in their meager cell when the audience is seated (Set Design is excellent, a collaborative effort by the Grottesco Ensemble), the dank lighting very atmospheric and sets the tone (Lighting Design well done by Joshua Billiter) and distant sounds of cell doors clanking (Sound Design, Dan Piburn) indicates that we are seeing just part of a large facility. Reddick is handed a slip of paper with the day’s story written on it. The action of the play (the story they need to tell) is based on the ancient epic tale Beowulf. Reddick’s character is familiar with the story, but Malec’s is not, creating a tense situation - their survival is based on whether or not their tale entertains the guards – how can that happen if one of them doesn’t know the story? 

Like all Grottesco pieces, Two Artists is an original piece created through company collaboration. This piece combines Reddick telling the story, Malec echoing her, or contradicting her, since Malec is unfamiliar with the text, the two of them sometimes coming together symbiotically and sometimes at odds with one another. There is interesting use of rhythm through language, breath and movement. There is always a sense of impending dread if they get the story wrong.

The play clocks in at a quick 60 minutes, which seems a bit short. If one did not read the playbill or hear about the show in advance, there is no exposition as to why they are imprisoned, who they are telling the story to, and what the consequences are if they do not succeed. I was left wanting more of the backstory of both characters, and also the story of how society has sunk to this point. The Beowulf tale is interesting and surprisingly timely in this age of “anti-woke” and “fake news,” the idea that this future could be closer than we think is not lost on us while watching the action unfold.

All in all, Two Artists in Prison is compelling, entertaining, and thought provoking. It’s good to have Grottesco back on the Santa Fe Theater scene.

One last bit of advice to the company - for the talkback following the show (each night there is a 5-minute talkback with cast, directors and crew) – consider assigning a moderator. Haivng just watched a compelling piece of theater, it’s really boring to hear a bunch of audience members pontificating and trying to one-up each other with their knowledge of theater. It would be much more enlightening to hear from the director, actors and company about their process, what they worked through to get the piece to the stage, or other subjects that enhance the work that was just presented. Santa Fe has a lot of theater lovers with a lot to say. However, I’m not sure the rest of us need hear from them after every show in town.

Two Artists in Prison runs through June 9th. Get tickets at https://www.theatergrottesco.org/.




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