Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Through a Window
Through a Window is now playing at The NM Black Cat Cultural & Community Center, (former site of the ill-fated Aux Dog Theatre), a new undertaking headed by R. Renée Estacio-Burdick, the popular, successful, and well-known businessman in the Albuquerque area.
This avant-garde, 501(c)(3) venture, created to support, promote and educate all aspects of LGBTQIA, also welcomes and encourages friendly straight people to their many and varied social activities (burlesque, drag, cabaret, singing, dance, and other forms of entertainment) and is actively seeking volunteers, sponsorships and donations to their on-site retail thrift store. Anyone who has enough faith, drive and optimism to sink their life savings into such an ambitious, community-spirited project during a global pandemic deserves all the support they can get.
Written and directed by Maury Evans, based on an idea by Scott Amspoker, and presented by the Celebration Theatre Company, Through a Window is a relatable familial tale told with Evans' recognizable homespun charm and humor. As someone once said, "Two households, both alike in dignity," this time in fair Albuquerque and San Francisco "where we lay our scene," we meet Margaret and Iris (Liz Olton and Ninette Mordaunt), two very elderly widowed ladies living in the aforementioned cities who, after becoming pen pals, become very close friends. Each lady has an unattached son: Alan (played by Antonio Pantoja) and Wilson (played by Rev. Paul Anway), who, coincidentally, live in their respective mother's pen pal's city.
The play's title indicates the mandatory distancing and the pain of enforced physical separation from loved onesthose seen and heard cannot be held. Written in the recent present, the pandemic has left both mothers trapped in their homes, and their only companionship consists of visits from their assisted living home aides.
Multiple threads run through and often intertwine in this entertaining production, with its hilarious dialogue and insightful humour. Isn't it often in the everyday where we can relax and recognize ourselves and our foibles?
Two unattached offspring can't remain that way long, and Ann, the spare wheel in an almost love triangle, is well played by Sebrena Figueroa, Margaret's aide. The other aide, poor tormented Toni (Charity Larkin-Montoya), has her hands full with her charge Iris, whose naturally ebullient personality is reshaped by encroaching dementia. The resulting confusion and personal upheaval experienced by all concerned is handled compassionately, and with a great deal of waggish fun.
Evans' talent as a writer is particularly obvious in this area, as he portrays his characters with sympathy and warmth. He carefully avoids being maudlin, while balancing benevolence and mischief nicely. The many clever asides brought appreciative laughter from the audience, while the underlying subject matter remains at the forefront.
The hands-down, standout performer is Ninette Mordaunt. She is truly a joy. All aspects of her Iris are beautifully portrayed, and her timingcomedic and otherwise is perfect. Mordaunt alone is worth the price of admission.
Is this a perfect production? No. Would fewer and shorter blackouts make the show smoother? Most definitely. Would reducing the script by about 10 or 15 minutes make it a tighter, better paced production? Absolutely. Would refashioning the upstage set so I wouldn't have heart failure waiting for the cast to trip during the blackouts be a good idea? Undoubtedly.
Would I recommend supporting this company and cast by going to the show? For sure!
Through a Window runs through June 12, 2021, at The NM Black Cat Cultural and Community Center, 3011 Monte Vista Blvd NE, Albuquerque NM. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. Through a Window is also available as video on demand from June 13, 2021, through June 27, 2021. For tickets (also available at the door) and information, please call 702-449-7022 or visit www.nmbc-cc.org or www.onthestage.com and search for Celebration Theatre Company.