Talia Pura’s two-in-one review recounts Santa Fe Classic Theater’s As You Like It at Santa Fe Botanical Garden and New Mexico Actors Lab’s The Lifespan of a Fact at the new Lab Theater.
Santa Fe Classic Theater’s As You Like It
Thursdays-Sundays, July 29–August 22, 2021
Santa Fe Botanical Garden
New Mexico Actors Lab’s The Lifespan of a Fact
Thursdays-Sundays, August 5–22, 2021
Sitting beneath the wide-open New Mexican skies, surrounded by the beauty of the Santa Fe Botanical Garden enjoying the Shakespearean comedy As You Like It is a magical experience. Directors Patrick Briggs and Kelly Kierman transport us, for a time, to the pastoral world of Arden. There, lovers are free to love, philosophers can find their muses, and we are able to forget the last year and a half we’ve suffered without the joy of live theater.
World-class classical theater isn’t always the art form that comes to mind in a city with such great artistic offerings, but it should be. Santa Fe Classic Theater is consistent in its quality, matching its talents to any Shakespearean productions achieved in places renowned for their Shakespearean festivals. The theater’s handling of the text renders it completely understandable and relatable to a modern audience. The directors deftly mine each moment to bring out the richness of the verse. Comedy gems are found where, under a less careful rendering, they would have gone unnoticed.
This strong ensemble cast proves once again that there are no small parts. Each character seems fully developed no matter how short the scene or few the lines. The divine blessing brought to the nuptials in the play’s final moments by Hymen (played by Mary Beth Lindsey) received enthusiastic applause for her brief appearance as did the student apprentices acting as a flock of sheep who populate the forest of Arden. In one scene, they dance a soft-shoe number as background to Le Beau (played by Bear Schacht), who sings a beautiful rendition of In Springtime. Schacht adds musical underpinnings to various scenes to great effect, giving them life and a sense of movement.
In addition to the solid direction, fabulous costumes designed by Cheryl Odom, and special touches of song and dance, the true strength of this production is the depth of the relationships between the characters—from the estranged brothers Oliver and Orlando (Miles Butch and Hania Stocker) and their conflict in the opening scene to the cousins Rosalind and Celia (Emily Rankin and Joey Beth Gilbert) and their schemes and dreams. One noteworthy scene of many takes place between Rosalind, now disguised as a man, and her would-be love, Orlando. Both actors play their moment-to-moment realities with charm and stunning clarity.
This Shakespearean comedy, continuing through August 22, 2021, is a welcome addition to summer in Santa Fe.
New Mexico Actors Lab’s The Lifespan of a Fact, which is taking place at NMAL’s brand new Lab Theater on Parkway Drive, takes us far from the forest of Arden to our modern world and its accompanying technologies and twenty-first-century problems. Beautifully directed by Robert Benedetti, this tight one-act explores the definition of truth and the difference between empirical facts and subjective impressions. In the play, a young magazine intern, Jim Fingal (played by Mickey Dolan), is asked by his boss Emily Penrose (Kat Sawyer) to fact-check an essay by well-known writer John D’Agata (Nicholas Ballas). He only has the weekend to complete the task, adding to the tension created by the multitude of inaccuracies he finds in the writing. The play, written by Jeremy Kareken, David Murrell, and Gordon Farrell, is based on the eponymous book by John D’Agata and Jim Fingal, which in turn is based on the real-life arguments they had while fact-checking D’Agata’s 2003 essay “What Happens There” over the course of several years.
With this production, NMAL earns its reputation for staging creative pieces of high quality. Dolan’s performance is worthy of mention as he holds his own against two very talented, experienced actors who inhabit their characters with ease. Dolan gives his character an innocence and eagerness that serves him well as he tenaciously pursues the truth as he sees it.
The play begins coldly, professionally, utilizing emails sent and received in real-time and phone calls between characters in different locations; characters with jobs to do that they expect will be done quickly. It soon evolves—or devolves—into messy face-to-face encounters exposing the characters’ vulnerabilities and egos. Emily and Jim grapple with the importance of not playing fast and loose with facts in the service of the mood, tone, and style of the essay, which John feels is perfect just as it is.
Adding the character of the magazine’s editor allows the play to move beyond mere disagreement and into many varied interactions with points, counterpoints, and sometimes a much-needed referee.
The Lifespan of a Fact, which is also scheduled to continue through August 22, is seventy minutes well spent.