Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

The Nutcracker, No Tutus
Duke City Repertory Theatre
Review by Stephanie Hainsfurther

Also see Rob's reviews of Elf the Musical, Jr., The Wind in the Willows and A Christmas Carol and Stephanie's reviews of Cinderella: The E! True Hollywood Story and Nutcracker on the Rocks

Katie Becker Colón
Photo by Corey Weintraub
There is music and choreography and the basic plot, but not a toe shoe to be found in Duke City Rep's rendition of The Nutcracker. In a post-performance talkback, director Amelia Ampuero said that the troupe chose this version for their holiday play because it spoke to them. This updated version speaks to all of us, too, in much the same way as the traditional story, but not of young love. This play deals in loss.

Clara (Katie Becker Colón) is trying to celebrate Christmas this year. Her parents, "lost in grief" over the death of their soldier son Fritz one year ago, are ignoring the holiday they once so enjoyed. Playing Clara's parents, Lauren Myers (Martha) and Josh Heard (David) show more than tell their profound mourning; they don't want to acknowledge it, they only want this painful time of year to be over. Myers and Heard impart to us their feelings, their concern for Clara's state of mind, and the devastation of their marriage with an economy of movement and expression, a credit to both actors.

Meanwhile, Uncle Drosselmeyer (Willis Miller) arrives, all set for the annual family party. He exercises his own form of denial when Martha and David tell him it's not on this year. After they see that his ebullience can't be squashed, the parents are resigned to having him as a houseguest. But their unease increases when they see the present he has brought for Clara—a hand-carved nutcracker in the form and face of her deceased brother.

Fritz (Frank Taylor Green) comes to life that night and he, Clara, and her dolls have their dream adventures. Green is smart and rigid as the soldier/wooden man; he is warm, understanding and protective as the grown-up brother of a younger sibling. His Nutcracker is every bit as complex and disciplined as the ballet-dancing character. This actor has range.

Robot doll Hugo (Ashley Daniels), sock Monkey (Ezra Colón), and talking doll Phoebe (Catharine Pilafas) are sweet and funny and make the overnight adventures a lighthearted frolic. Until the rats show up. Myers, Heard, and Miller do double duty as Scary Rat, Quite Scary Rat, and Really Quite Scary Rat, all with London thug accents (and without backstage dressers for those costume changes). Yes, please do bring the kids. It's all in good fun and family bonding will ensue.

Duke City Rep casts their shows without regard to gender, age, ethnicity and other tags. I like that about them.

Now through December 20, 2015, Thursday-Saturday 8 pm, Sunday 2 pm, The Cell Theatre, 700 1st St. NW, (505) 797-7081,

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