The cast is rehearsing the last scene of Fortunato when I arrive at Teatro Paraguas’ new location, a few units down from its old black-box space in the Agua Fría Village. They’re having trouble finding momentum.
Lines are forgotten. Props are dropped. Cues are missed. And the scene comes to a halt when actor Marcos Maez leans against a giant target, only to have it collapse behind him with a rattling crash and the sound of glass breaking.
The crew jumps up to fix the set, and the play continues. Then, actor Sara Arana asks whether she should light the candles in Maez’ hands. She does, the scene resumes, with Juliet Salazar saying her line, “Light your candle, please.” Cast and crew laugh. More lines are forgotten and everyone takes a break to regroup. In the meantime, Salazar drops her toy rifle and a piece breaks off. I imagine the opening bars of Send in the Clowns.
The director, Argos MacCallum, tells Salazar he’ll get her a “proper rifle,” then prompts her to begin the scene. “Let’s get back to business,” he says. It’s Salazar’s line, so she repeats it, and the others follow the cue. “I’ll be still and my children will have bread,” Maez says. Then he breaks character: “Holy Jesus.” Another actor has walked in from the backstage area wearing a girdle that thrusts her more-than-ample breasts practically up to her nose.
I’m sitting in the back row of the 50-person theater, and MacCallum turns to me with a half smile and complete amusement. “It’s been a rough rehearsal,” he says.
Indeed; however, when I’m reading the script, later, I recognize that the mood of the play has injected itself into the energy of the production. One scene pours into the next with Fortunato (Maez) as the constant. He’s looking for work, only to encounter miserliness, trickery, desperation and cynicism. At every opportunity for income, his desire for work and his ethics clash, his situation best described by a hustler named Don Victorio (Liberato Salaz): “The men who work are the only ones who don’t get ahead.”
The humor in the 1912 play—updated and relocated in Santa Fe by Ron Mier and MacCallum—is in the frantic action, and the resulting misunderstandings. In the opening scene, the architect Alberto (Patrick Roesnner Avila) tells his assistant, Monica (Chloe Torblaa), to turn away one visitor and admit another. She does the opposite, so he instructs her to inform all callers forth that he has gone to Disney World. She does as instructed when a man phones to schedule a time to drop off a check. “Bien, bien,” Alberto says ironically.
Unsuccessful at finding work with Alberto and unwilling to play the Dirty Rotten Scoundrels routine with Don Victorio, Fortunato tries begging. He stops a woman (Karmela Gonzales), but instead of asking for money, he asks for directions to Fort Marcy. She says, “It’s over by Montezuma.” “No,” he says, “it’s near the post office,” and then he describes the route in detail.
Fortunato’s luck catches up with his name in the final scene, when he meets Amaranta (Salazar), a lovelorn markswoman looking for someone to hold candles as she shoots them out.
The scene finally wraps up with Fortunato choosing to risk his life rather than swindle strangers or let his children starve, saying “And my children will have bread! Tienen pan mis hijos! Tienen pan mis hijos!”
Costume designer Malcom Morgan calls the cast to the stage to collect their garb and make adjustments. MacCallum sits next to me, watching them, smiling as if he’s got a secret, and says, “It’s total chaos. It’s like herding rabbits.”
Fortunato: 8 pm Friday and Saturday, April 27 and 28; 2 pm Sunday, April 29; through May 12. $10-$12 (pay-what-you-wish on Sunday. Teatro Paraguas, 3205 Calle Marie, 424-1601
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