On Friday, March 11, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend Boxer Shorts II: From Water to Dust/ De Agua al Polvo at the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th street and I am pleased to say I was treated to quite the performance. It was my first time seeing a play at the venue and the interior design of the building, there is no stage in the traditional sense, ensured it would be one of the more unique experiences of my life, and the cast and crew did an exceptional job of making it unforgettable.
The play itself is a unique, international collaboration of Brown Box Theatre Project and Ícaro Teatro, and so there was already a very high intrigue factor before I walked into the door, but my curiosity spiked as I saw the layout of the stage and the chairs, which were set up on three sides of the stage, approximately 10 inches away from the white, silk like curtains that marked the borders of the stage. The set itself seemed simple enough, with a few props and boxes in each corner, and the table set up for the first play, Tape, with a chair and a tape recorder waiting for the actors to appear on stage. As the plays transitioned one into the other, however, I noticed the ingenuity of the stage, the props, and the layout itself which allowed the cast to move seamlessly into the next play with just a few adjustments and re-arranging. Directors Kyler Taustin and Talia Curtin, along with the cast, Rachel Belleman, Johnny Quinones, Miguel Septién, and Olivia Caputo deserve a tremendous amount of credit for maximizing their venue and working to ensure the fluid continuity of the play.
Tape was the first play in the series and opened very effectively as if to usher the audience into the unknown with a character, Person, played by Rachel Belleman, who was also entering the unknown, and filled with as many questions as we were filled with. Rachel did a phenomenal job leading off and quickly showed her prowess as an actress, perfectly portraying a person confused, scared, frustrated, and bordering on angry. I personally felt Rachel did a great job with her tone, cadence, and breaths as she was able to remain stern despite being in near panic mode with the situation she was placed in. Johnny Quinones complimented Rachel perfectly with his character, Attendant, who despite being the one giving the instructions, had no control over the situation either, he was simply doing as he was told to do, instructing her to do the same. As grim as the situation was, Rachel did an excellent job of drawing us into her character and making us feel the confusion and frustration she was experiencing. Johnny did a superb job with his role, so well in fact that the off-centered humor was really allowed to take off and balance out the human element to the whole equation. Tape served as a wonderful opener to the play and set the stage for a very entertaining night.
Capricho was the next short play in the Boxer Shorts lineup and featured Miguel Septién as Lolò, an actor from the 1930’s who has been forgotten about and left in his dressing room, anxiously awaiting his turn to take the stage. Miguel gives an inspiring performance as Lolò and captivates the audience with his constant positivity and optimistic spirit. Lolò is in a situation that no one would ever want to be in, but at no point does he let that show, and Miguel artfully teders on the brink of giving in and relentless hope. I was truly drawn into the turmoil Lolò was facing with how passionate Miguel was in both his words and his actions. I feel that Capricho really defined what it is to be faced with turning to dust but never flinching in the face of such adversity.
Following Capricho was the heart-felt tale of Springtime, a play about two women, Greta and Rainbow, who are in love with one another, but whose love becomes tested by outside influences as Greta falls ill and Rainbow must do what she can to pay for treatment. Rainbow, elegantly played by Olivia Caputo, has a criminal past that Greta, played by Rachel Belleman, discovers is how Rainbow plans to pay for her medicine, which adds the outside force of Ray, played very well by Miguel Septién, into their relationship. Ray is a very real person and his dynamic with the two women is slowly revealed as the play goes on, but he says nothing and is an appropriate symbol for what unfortunately happens when we allow others to have control over any aspect of our personal relationships. Olivia and Rachel portray the love between Greta and Rainbow perfectly as both actresses exhibited a wide array of skills and emotions during the play.
From Water to Dust concluded strongly with the short play, Bliss, an interesting concept piece involving Olivia Caputo as Lori, and Johnny Quinones as Jim, being washed ashore on an unknown beach in Florida. Lori and Jim are attached to one another and seem to know the memories of one another quite well. Olivia and Johnny have a great onstage chemistry and the fabric connecting the two becomes the focal point of the performance as they dance across the stage and reel one another in, before sending them back quickly to their previous distance. Bliss capped the night’s performance off with a terrific ending scene and really wrapped up From Water to Dust very effectively.
I thoroughly enjoyed my night and time spent with the Brown Box Theatre Project at the Center For the Arts on 94th street and look forward to seeing them when they come around again in June with the play Brilliant Traces. I strongly urge you to check them out on their website here and come out and see one of their performances.