Wednesday, 13 August 2014 02:02

Theatre Review - TUCUMCARI

Written by Radomir Vojtech Luza, Theatre Critic
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If you are interested in a play about a love triangle in New Mexico during the dust bowl era, look no further than the Appaloosa Theatre Company’s production of Riley Steiner’s “Tucumcari” playing at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center in the heart of the NoHo Arts District through August 31st.

This is the story of three people who work together to make an inn on newly booming Route 66 in New Mexico into what they envision.

In renovating “Tucumcari,” they face nature, each other, but mainly themselves. In the process, they also give one a glimpse of an America many have forgotten, but which desperately needs to be remembered.

Written with depth, light and rich humanity, this play still manages to weave a tapestry of passion, suffering and humor that covers every set of eyes in the theatre.

Steiner does not so much tell a story as fuel your need to learn about the Wild American West, stock market crash of 1929 and Route 66 during the dust bowl era.

This in turn prompts us, the audience, to care about these three beautifully drawn characters, each with a spirit and temerity of their own.

Steiner’s direction stands on its own . The blocking, movement and motivation each character displays only add to the sumptuous language that tells the tale of “Tucumari” and its three ghostlike or near tragic occupants.

Steiner has chosen a wildly talented cast.

Ric Maddox (Cade Cooper) displays a towering stage presence that not only makes his words resonate that much louder, but his actions that much clearer. Maddox is a sensitive and compassionate actor who gives a convincing turn here.

Noah Holcomb (Lyle Watkins) gives a portrayal of such heightened humor and passion that he is impossible to overlook. This is an actor of such energy and timing that even his mistakes are triumphs. Holcomb almost walks away with the play, especially in Act I.

But it is Hallie Cooper (Lillian Watkins) who steals the show. Cooper’s performance is of such fury, motivation, poise and tranquility that it is simply unforgettable. It tickles the heartstrings while wetting the appetite. In Act II, Cooper shows a sensitivity, strength and allure to rival any actress this critic has seen so far this year on the Los Angeles theatre scene.

Cooper’s intensity and magnetism make the play what it is: a study in redemption and rebirth.

Adding to the message of the play are the production design of Simone Piaskowski, the lighting design of Michael C. Jenkins and the costume design of Megan Luby.

Ty Fanning leads the Country and Western threesome that also includes Brantley Kearns on fiddle and as the radio voice and Juli Crockett on banjo, guitar and lead vocals. The band plays on a ledge above the stage and weaves a wholesome thread of purely American Country music that inspires and illuminates the proceedings.

All in all, “Tucumcari” is a small masterpiece. Written so that you can taste the dust on stage and feel the tornado on your cheeks, it not only boasts a stellar cast, but a message of love lost, found and lost again that any theatre goer can identify with.

The Appaloosa Theatre Company should be given a world of credit for giving this Country and Western production a home and a chance.

“Tucumcari” takes full advantage of the opportunity and brings the house down ever so softly.

Thursdays, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm
Sundays at 7pm
Tickets: $10
Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601 in the heart of the NoHo Arts District on the corner of Vineland.
Street parking available.


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