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Monday, December 22, 2014

Fusion Theatre delivers expertise with 'The Seven'

There is a lot of damn theatre in Albuquerque.

More than 40 theatre organizations belong to the Albuquerque Theatre Guild. Not bad for a city with a population just under a million. Most of this is “community theatre,” where locals volunteer for little or no money.

The Fusion Theatre, however, likes to set itself apart.

One of the very few professional theatre companies in town, the performers are all as pretty as you please. It’s been a while since I’d even seen one of their shows — not from disinterest, but mostly because I just forget to think about them.

Fusion’s newest production is “The Seven,” a selection of seven plays taken from “583 submissions from 38 states and eight countries.” The submissions were supposed to be themed under the moniker of “Worlds Collide,” but any form of connection is loose at best, and many of the playwrights likely never thought of it at all.

This is a small gripe. The seven plays of “The Seven” are short, sweet, often funny, and each is extremely intriguing. If this is, indeed, “professional theatre,” I certainly believe it.

There is an attention to detail that is wholly noticeable and entirely impressive. From the individual and clever set pieces to the creative exactitude of the blocking and staging to the noticeable song choices, everything is given consideration and love.

Hell, even the kid actors are fantastic — a common pitfall for any production in any form, to be sure.

The opening play, “Timmy Perlmutter Goes Flying,” by Paul Lewis, is completely sold by the young boy at its center, Trey Caperton. The piece is light and campy and has a pleasantly schmaltzy core surrounded by the silly lightheartedness of a Jewish grandmother stereotype played by Debi Kierst and Bruce Holmes as a goofy overacting father, though his performance fits the tone.

The jokes deaden abruptly with “The Secret Keeper,” containing the delightful subjects of Afghan suicide bombers, scurrilous graveyards and even some good ol’ dead kids. They even threw in some neat Styrofoam rocks.

It was thought-provoking and an enjoyable piece, though I was left curious if author David Meyers actually knew anything about the subject firsthand.

Matt Andrade and Kate Costello both do a fine job in their dialogue, with Andrade in particular being a fascinating actor to see work.

“Battling the Ghost of Max Schmeling,” by Thomas H. Atkinson, was up third. Robert Beneditti kills as the protagonist, Ray, and Director Jacqueline Reid must be commended on her craft.

The piece runs through deep emotions, playing with memory and storytelling which stand as an example of why theatre can be so unique from other narrative forms.

John Miguel Fleming Quijada is a little distracting when he hugely emotes, but he’s second fiddle to Beneditti and the ethereal consciousness of Ray.

The first act ends on a hysterical high note with “A Disappearing” by Mark Wyss.

The script is competent comedy and isn’t especially unique or spectacular, but it’s the performers that are really what make the old girl sing. Peter Diseth is a born comedian as The Great Marvin, a bumbling, small-time illusionist.

Diseth nails every single one of his comedic beats without fail, never wasting a moment or a line. Matt Heath and Jen Grigg lead excellent support as the hilariously oversexed and psychopathic parents.

From their messy petting of the bewildered Marvin to the reflective jerking off of his wand, this is truly the piece to launch the audience grinning into intermission.

Good thing, too, since you’re welcomed back by the magnanimous “The Starfire Dance” written by Deborah Yarchun and directed by Paul Ford.

This is simply stunning storytelling: the writing is crisp and beautiful, the staging is creative and mesmerizing and the quality of the performances is off the charts.

Laurie Thomas and Paul Blott are breathtaking in this piece with surreal use of time-traveling remembrance, ancient personal truths and a bit of amiable sexual assault.

There are some beautiful pieces in “The Seven,” but “The Starfire Dance” stands above them all.

“The Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies” by Kathleen Cahill, is definitely the weakest of the pieces, but it is by no means terrible.

It’s awkwardly segmented and floppily directed, and the use of a pop culture cut-out of a young Albert Einstein is effectively a shallow attempt at integrating his recognizable populism. It’s not as clever as it wants to be, but deserves the attention to be reworked by the playwright.

The Surreal as Shit award goes to the final piece, somewhat uninspiredly dubbed “Ginny”, written by Anna Fox, which stars a little girl named Susan.

No, not really. The girl is named Ginny.

The play stars the stellar Leedy Corbin, another exceptional child actor.

The entirety of the play is carried almost solely by Corbin and her monologues, and she is totally phenomenal.

There are some odd, ham-fisted metaphors (and even metaphors about metaphors) in the script, but it certainly isn’t boring to watch.

The Fusion Theatre claims to be professional theatre, and on that it surely delivers.

Graham Gentz is a freelance reporter for The Daily Lobo. Contact him at culture@dailylobo.com.