in Milkwood Theater's Cortez
(photo: Cortney van Jahnke)
Presented by Milkwood Theater
Written by Judith Goudsmit
Directed by David Riley
I'll be upfront about it: A large part of the reason I chose Milkwood Theater's Cortez out of numerous Fringe fest offerings was a photo (seen above) that showed a woman of color (Heather Holmes) in what would appear to be a significant role as a marine biologist. Of course, I hoped I'd also take interest in the rest of Judith Goudsmit's characters, played by David Riley, who also directs, Cory Lawson and Peter Waluk--three white male actors. Kudos to Milkwood for casting Holmes for a (sort of, really, really sort of) romantic role unspecified by race. But, sorry to say, I ended up not caring, one way or another, about anyone here.
At the center of this hour-long physical theater piece about scientists Mike (Riley) and Heather (Holmes) and their research expedition to the Sea of Cortez is a deteriorating relationship. Since we do not get to see this couple at its best, we build no investment in their lives, together or apart, and it's irritating, and more than a little confusing, to witness how their personal failure impacts the innocents they're studying--the poor, nearly-extinct tomatians.
What? You've never heard of tomatians? Think squishy, tomato-red ball with little knobby protrusions all over it. Tomatians are losing their ability to reproduce. (Shhhh! They don't really exist at all. But you'll end up giving more of a damn about them than about....)
All of this floats in the dreamy absurdity of some well-done movement-oriented segments and gestural characterizations (the physical in "physical theater") as well as Matthew Keff's fanciful, ghostly-white projections--a drifting full moon, a boat's revolving steering wheel, slowly-twirling candelabra, marine creatures flashing through the sea's inky darkness. There's charm and diversion in these aspects of Cortez.
The show opens with Riley giving a glitchy, harried presentation for the fictitious Monterey Research Institute, his funding source. He starts off by suggesting a better name for Planet Earth--Planet Water--since our planet has far more of that element. After watching the behavior of humans in Cortez, I'd have to agree. Yes, let's focus on the sea creatures.
Thursday, August 21, 2pm
Saturday, August 23, 8pm
Theater at the 14th Street Y
344 East 14th Street (at 1st Avenue), Manhattan
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