The Barefoot Theatre Company recently took residence at the 78th Street Theatre Lab to pay homage to a prolific modern playwright. Actors soared to theatrical heights displaying his warmth and versatility through wonderful performances in Program A of A Festival of Short Plays and Poetry by Israel Horovitz.
The evening commenced with Shooting Gallery, telling the story of a man (Jeremy Brena) obsessed with winning a prize at a carnival for his steadfast wife (Victoria Malvagno). His target -- a slow-moving, robotic bear (played skillfully by Christopher Lueck) has been elusive, driving his hunter to play the game for nearly a year. The dialog consists mostly of his wife expressing her dismay at their situation of actually living at the carnival while her husband continues to strive for the reward. The lines are charming and absurd, and Malvagno (who also has had an impressive career as a dancer) played the comedienne to the nines. Brena was bewitching as the passionate shooter and seemed simultaneously to embody both an angelic sensitivity and a hardheaded inflexibility. In a bizarre instant of farce (and horror), the bear comes to life to attack the man. The wife, who is nearer the gun, kills the bear, then moments later, after only brief contemplation, shoots her pushy husband, winning her freedom.
Malvagno and Chiara Montalto created intensely thematic costumes of black-and-white half-covered in chalk, which glowingly illustrated the passage of time.
Poetry read artfully by Tess Zugmeyer was placed evenly between the scenes. The actress almost became a kind of narrator for the evening.
The next short play was Banking Sharks, starring Zugmeyer and the absolutely transformed Lueck, whose spontaneous charm was worthy of attention. Horovitz’s discourse is effective in its simplicity. The short play is a conversation between two young lovers getting to know one another. The reading of the lines in French was pleasing to listen to and very romantic.
Horowitz’s final play of the night, Hopscotch, is tinted with such emotional intricacy that it seemed to force the actors to rise onstage and challenge the playwright’s own creativity. Malvagno and Brena not only rose to the occasion but mastered precise New England accents as well.
Malvagno played a tough woman whose unfortunate life has left her embittered. She meets a man who flirts with her while she is playing hopscotch on the street. She thinks she recognizes him but is not certain. Their idle chat leads to heated arguments as the two strangers hiss and criticize one another. The dialog reveals that Brena was her fiancé from high school who left her pregnant to "travel the world." He reveals that he is getting married and that he will soon move back home to raise a family. In the final, riveting scene, the heartbroken Malvagno, imprisoned in a passionless marriage, sits down on the bench and holds in a womanly wrath.
Francisco Solorzano brilliantly directed. Eric Nightengale’s lighting was impressive and Jeremy C. Barnett’s set design was boldly stylish.
The Barefoot Theatre Company is a blossoming troupe of artists who take on their endeavors with gusto and innovation. Next time they perform, those looking for a spark of genius Off-Off Broadway might want to look them up.
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Copyright 2003 Jade Esteban Estrada