Theater Review

Career pressure gets a mythic makeover at Miami Theater Center

 

If you go

What: ‘Knowledge and Noise’ by Theo Reyna.

Where: SandBox Series at Miami Theater Center, 9806 NE Second Ave., Miami Shores.

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, through Nov. 16.

Cost: $20.

For more info: Call 305-751-9550 or visit www.mtcmiami.org.


cdolen@MiamiHerald.com

The Miami Theater Center’s SandBox Series is an incubator of art, an initiative that allows playwrights, composers, choreographers and performance artists to explore new work while sharing their expertise with audiences and students.

Supported by a $100,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant, this year’s five-show series features new plays by Theo Reyna and Juan C. Sanchez, a performance art piece by Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, a musical work by Juraj Kojs and a dance piece by Carlota Pradera. Reyna’s Knowledge and Noise, showcased through Nov. 16 in MTC’s 50-seat black box studio, kicks off the series.

The play is described as a “comedic modern myth,” and that’s accurate. There are infinite ways to write about a young person’s search for a career, purpose and meaning in life -- the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q is just one glossy example -- and Reyna, who also directs his world premiere play, has chosen the minimalist-mythic route. Yet though the play has no clear anchors of place, time or culture, young contemporary audiences laugh at and connect with it.

Reyna’s protagonist is Pina (Regina Gonzalez), a young woman being relentlessly pressured by her mother (Jessica Farr) to choose a career. Pina is resolutely resistant, sporting the same dangerous attitude that got her brother Anton (Sebastian Lombardo) exiled from a society that demands such commitment. What would she rather do? Simply continue learning, keeping her options open.

Pina then falls into the hands of an inquisitive, threatening pair (Farr and Giordan Diaz) who swear, “We are not the thought police.” But they go at her relentlessly, demanding she share what she plans to do with the rest of her life because “...we can’t have you wandering around unready. You need a purpose.”

Still, Pina remains stubborn about not committing to anything but learning. So off she goes to exile, a place where self-education pales next to the need for shelter, food and safety. That last is driven home by the sudden reappearance of an agitated, threatening figure from her past.

Reyna’s 80-minute piece is just long enough to get Pina from unwelcome dilemma to a kind of resolution. His writing is quirky, imaginative, often funny. And he vividly evokes the pressure that twentysomethings feel to make choices that will affect the rest of their lives.

Sporting simple production values -- the backdrop “set” and inexpensive costumes are by Beata Rihkter, the lighting by Tammy Srinivas -- Knowledge and Noise isn’t as powerful as it might have been had a stronger actor been cast as Pina. Gonzalez, who rushes her lines and oddly pronounces certain words (“important” is just one example), plays Pina as an at-times affectless young woman drifting through life. By contrast, Lombardo’s Anton is effectively unnerving, Diaz quick and amusing, Farr a versatile and magnetic presence.

Knowledge and Noise demonstrates that mythic stories can effectively cut through the noise and stimulus overload of our 21st century world. It also underscores the continuing evolution of South Florida as a place friendly to new work and to intriguing new voices such as Reyna’s.

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