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A CurtainUp NJ Review
A teenage boy commits a horrible act of violence, ending the life of more than a dozen students at his school. The boy's parents have presumably had no clue to the provocation or what part they may have played in his premeditated act of violence. Well acted by a cast of three and expertly directed by John J. Wooten, Las Cruces may be flawed in character development but is on the mark with effusive dialogue that often bristles.
The play begins six months after the event, with the father Sheridan (Brian Sutherland) having run off to some remote spot in the middle of the New Mexico desert. With no word to his wife he has signed a year's lease on a rusty and gutted old trailer and moved in with only a few belongings and a lap top. The trailer is not far from a Space Port that is being built and where periodic explosions cut into the stillness. That is, except for the non-stop chatter of Soledad (Diomargy Nuñez) the seventeen year-old girl who has been squatting at the trailer since quitting school and running away from home. Developing a skill as a card shark at the local casino, she apparently keeps herself in the chips.
Soledad considers Sheridan an intruder — "a stalker" as she taunts and goads him with a barrage of often outlandish accusations. Although in no mood for Soledad's annoyingly aggressive behavior and her constant invasion of his privacy, Sheridan slowly begins to sense that she needs a friend. The nub of the play kicks in with the arrival of Sheridan's wife Jane (Charlotte Cohn) who has been able to trace him to this hideout while she has had to face alone the formal deposition, the rage of the community in which they live and the attention of the press.
Although the setting never changes, video clips of the son in his infancy, as well as those the boy made of himself as a disturbed teenager, bring a decided poignancy to the drama, as do Jane's actualized memories of the boy in his infancy. As you might expect, a bitter confrontational scene between Sheridan and Jane allows us the only glimpse into the relationship. This, as accusations are hurled and rebuked as they try to address how and why their parenting went wrong.
There are key elements in the plot that simply don't get addressed as well as aspects of the characters that are not revealed that would give them added dimension. A lot is spoken but a lot is also unresolved and left for us to figure out.
Sutherland is certainly credible as the husband almost frozen by his presumed failures. An exuberant Nunez gives the play its jolts of vitality as the troubled teen and Cohn has a solid grip on the heartbreak that robs her of any empathy for Sheridan. The grim setting by Patrick Rizzotti and the realistic sound effects by Janie Bullard are excellent atmospherics.
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Las Cruces by Vincent Delaney
Directed by John J. Wooten
Cast: Brian Sutherland (Sheridan), Diomargy Nuñez (Soledad), Charlotte Cohn (Jane)
Stage Manager: Dale Smallwood
Scenic Design: Patrick Rizzotti
Costume Design: Karen Lee Hart
Sound Design: Janie Bullard
Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes with no intermission
Premiere Stages at the Zella Fry Theatre at Kean University, 100 Morris Avenue, Union, N.J.
(908) 737 - 7469
Tickets: $30.00, Seniors $20.00, Students $15.00
Performances: Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm, and Sundays at 3 pm.
From 09/01/16 Opened 09/02/16 Ends 09/18
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 09/02/16
NJ Theatre Alliance
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