Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Also see Stephanie's review of Dracula
Their days together start with a ho-hum breakfast ritual and at first Dan seems ho-hum, too. But this play tests the audience's perceptions of what has happened in his past and what he has in mind for the future. It teases us, too, with the past and present of Betty, a home healthcare aide to Peggy who is the owner of a cat named Prudence.
Betty has 19 cats in various levels of foster care. Dan has Chapatti and is in mourning for Martha. Only Dan and Betty are present on the stage. That the other characters are almost as real is a testament to the playwright's storytelling and the actors' skill.
Joanne Camp as Betty and Peter Shea Kierst as Dan are familiar to New Mexico audiences: Camp through her work with FUSION Theatre Company, on TV ("Manhattan") and in film (The Lone Ranger, Warrior Woman); Kierst most recently as Leon Trotsky in Trotsky & Frida and as the director of many Shakespearean plays for The Vortex Theatre that will include the upcoming The Henry Project: Henry IV and Henry V in November.
To see these two work together playing people from the same Dublin neighborhood is delightful and revealing. Kierst's Dan is glum, more than a tad cranky, and looking for a new home for his dog. He's going away, you see. Camp's Betty is staying put, the constant parade of cats slinking in and out of her life, her caring for Peggy at war with the patient's unhappy sarcasm. Betty's laughterat herself, the cats, life itselfis fetching.
There are plenty of laughs in this play, all the more so because of its authenticity. The actors have to be honest. They discover each other at the veterinarian's office, lonesome souls. They deal with a neighborhood drama. They talk directly to us. We see them in their underwear. For Pete's sake, there's nowhere to hide. Camp and Kierst put it all out there for us and inhabit Betty and Dan so completely that I can't imagine anyone else in these roles.
Deft direction by Denise Schulz makes certain her actors sidestep any chick-lit holes the playwright dug for them. Cats and dogs? To be fair, writer Christian O'Reilly wipes that euphemism for women and men off the table early on with his close reading of human emotion. These characters grapple with real feelings. The roles (and pets) could be switched and little would be lost.
On a budget, co-set Designers Vic Browder and Peter Crawford creatively replicated the stage set from Chapatti's 2014 premiere at Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Ill. But the Mother Road Theatre Company logo-as-bat-signal puts its own stamp on stage, as do the cast and crew.
Through February 21, 2016, Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m.; Keshet Center for the Arts, 4121 Cutler Ave. NE, (505) 243-0596, motherroad.org.