Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

This Is Modern Art

Duke City Repertory Theatre
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

Dachary Vann, Frank Taylor Green,
and Alicia Lueras Maldonado

Photo courtesy of Duke City Repertory Theatre
Originally commissioned by Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre for young audiences, This Is Modern Art invites us into the world of young artists of color. Premiered in 2015 and based on actual events at the Art Institute of Chicago, the play is co-written by Idris Goodwin and Kevin Coval. It is non-linear, episodic and presentational, challenging viewers to recognize the value of the creative processes. The play asks: what is art, where is it found, and to whom does it belong? It is a glimpse into the lives of anonymous graffiti artists, and asks viewers to question the true purpose of art.

The Duke City Repertory Theatre gives this play an outstanding and very professional production. The 75-minute running time, without an intermission, seems to fly by. The pace is brisk but also dreamy, and director Ezra Colón has choreographed the play like a piece of modern music. Indeed, the authors have poetry and rap in their backgrounds, and the aesthetic of rap culture and young people is prominent.

The entire cast is excellent. Led by DCRT Acting Company member Frank Taylor Green as Seven, each actor is well cast and able to handle the fast-paced dialogue and movement very well. Frank brings gravitas and poignancy to Seven's search for artistic fulfillment. Alicia Lueras Maldonado as JC takes on a role that was originally written for a male actor and owns it. Dachary Vann as Dose brings the right touch of cluelessness to his role and has good comic timing. Addison Flores-Thorpe is lovely and very authentic as Selena, the "driver, not a groupie." These four principal actors each perform monologues that are like arias in an opera and give insight into their characters.

Ensemble members Danielle Robertson and Jacob Swanson are excellent in the variety of roles they are required to play. Special kudos to Danielle for handling with panache a lot of expository art history dialogue that could have been didactic and tiresome.

Set designer Chesapeake Dalrymple has given the actors a clever and aesthetically pleasing playground/set that the director uses well. The playing area of the black box theatre is certainly not large, but somehow the actors are able to race around the set as if it really is a space open to the sky and the elements. No one seems to be limiting their actions. A good unit set that works well for the whole play is not easy to create, but always terrific to see and an asset to any production.

Other physical aspects of the production are similarly supportive of the action of the play and the essence of the characters. The handling of the action of graffiti painting is mimed. The suggestion of graffiti on the set and the gobo lighting at the end are excellent choices that allow the audience to use their imagination. The actors are not required to actually paint during the performance.

In short, the production values are high and always in service of the play and the performers. The cast is multi-ethnic as is the DCRT company, which is absolutely necessary for this play and good for the Albuquerque theatre scene.

Be advised that the play does contain adult language. The piece was commissioned for high school students, and some critics and others had problems with presenting a play that contains authentic street language. Early teen audiences in Chicago thought the play spoke directly to them.

The audience on opening night was a mixture of adults of many ages, including seniors and adolescents. They responded well to the performance. In many ways, This Is Modern Art is a primer of graffiti art. The jargon of the form is used and explained. Everyone learns and enjoys a wonderful evening in the theatre.

This Is Modern Art runs through March 8, 2020, at the Tricklock Lab, 110 Gold Ave. SW, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8:00 p.m., Sundays at 2:00 p.m. General Admission $18. Pay what its worth March 1 and March 5. For reservations, please call 505-797-7081 or visit

Directed by Ezra Colón. Set Design by Chesapeake Dalrymple. Cast: Frank Taylor Green, Alicia Lueras Maldonado, Dachary Vann, Addison Flores-Thorpe, Danielle Robertson, and Jacob Swanson.