"Summertime | an interlude" chronicles the aftermath of a fatal store robbery through the tangled tales of four tormented characters grappling with the tragedy of individual circumstances coupled with a yearning to escape structural oppression.
The urban stagnancy of a boiling summer day is punctured with a gunshot wound that leaves Red, an affable shopkeeper and mentor, fighting for his life. This cruel incident emotionally rocks the city to its core and proves an effective backdrop for four damaged characters' introspection.
The plot unfolds through the deliberate actions and snippets of dialogue of two radio hosts, a convicted felon (David) recently released from prison and his sister (Windy), an anxious neighbor who bears the responsibility of owning Red’s shop (Syd) and a young father (Vince) struggling to satisfy the demands of hospital bills for his daughter, who is battling cancer.
Each main character struggles against their own demons. David attempts to reconcile the aftermath of ten years in prison and its subsequent violent imprint on his past. Windy combats the constraints of a vicious town and an isolated upbringing in which she learned to trust no one but herself. Vince agonizes over the emotional and financial strife his daughter's illness relentlessly brings, and Syd — one of the neighborhood's only openly queer inhabitants — is doomed to a lifetime behind the deli counter if Red does not survive the morning's attack.
A smattering of laughs and brave faces woven throughout the production cannot disguise that the cracked psyches of the main characters are hanging by a thread. Indeed, a frequent theme implemented in the play is the destructive consequence of allowing hatred to poisonously consume one's life.
Furthermore, the production plays on the bittersweet irony of the four characters' unbreakable bond. These characters laugh, cry and swallow sour pills of truth together. Their uncanny ability to survive better as a unit transcends their individual wants and needs. However, despite their closeness and undeniable love for each other, each character desperately desires to abandon their current circumstances and subsequently want to leave their city and each other.
The paralleling of the unbearable heat of the play's urban, summer setting with the quagmire of guilt-ridden personal narratives gives way to a potent message: One ought not to define him/herself by a mistake only if one is willing to take responsibility for it. No amount of alcohol ingested to smother emotions throughout the plot can deny this fact for any of the characters.
Aniello Fontano, a UNM MFA candidate and the writer of "Summertime," said the play's inventive process was a product of profound introspection.
"If something doesn't actively destroy me while writing it, I don't see the point," Fontano said. "I want to explore my own shortcomings and learn throughout the process of writing. This play is important to me because I learned a lot about myself while writing it. I learned how to better engage with personal traumas, painful memories and foreign emotions. I feel like I've grown through it."
Fontano's artistic background is speckled with unconventional creative milestones, from rejecting his "cookie-cutter" primitive attempts at comedic playwriting to engaging in his first fistfight as a 12-year-old defending his cousin's honor.
The latter experience, Fontano said, taught him that "home isn't a place, but people. People you love. People you fight for. People who will fight for you." The theme of discovering the authentic meaning of "home" remains present in his work.
When asked to relay his thoughts about the production, Fontano expressed a desire to evoke any form of emotional response from his viewers.
"Somewhere between the technical act of writing a play and the emotional act of loving unconditionally lies 'Summertime,'" he said. "If you got the opportunity to see it, I hope you feel a particular way about it. Hate it. Love it. Laugh. Cry. Just don't walk away with an 'eh' and I feel like we've succeeded as a team."
Beatrice Nisoli is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BeatriceNisoli