The Heart of a Beast OnStage at Fur

Monica Steuer

 

By Marcina Zaccaria

 

There’s something exciting about what NYTW Next Door has done in presenting Fur by Migdalia Cruz, directed by Elena Araoz, produced by Boundless Theatre Company.

At first, Fur is a bit harrowing to watch. Inside a cage, Citrona awaits the visitation of Michael, a pet shop owner. Fabulous with black, curly hair and a pink and brown constructed unitard, this extraordinary beast screams for animals to eat, and eventually entire people to devour. With a loud, strong voice, Cirtona (Monica Steuer), expounds upon her cravings to Michael, portrayed by Danny Bolero (In the Heights, American Mariachi).

Migdalia Cruz’s work unfolds in quippy bits of text, with Nena, played by Ashley-Marie Ortiz, moving from being an onlooker at a carnival to a guest at a pet store. Long monologues engage the audience in Cruz’s poetics, revealing internal worlds of despair and desire. What is ferocious is present. What is naïve is decimated. What is vexing is the endless sense that there is little chance to escape the captivity. With an homage to the Side Shows of the early 20th century, the experience of the circus is echoed without being essentially re-created, as there isn’t the distance in the drama so essential to the actor/ spectator relationship.

 

Danny Bolero, Ashley-Marie Ortiz

 

Instead, theater is created that knows no bounds, featuring a collage of extraordinary images. We see: a tall, upstage window with something like beautiful, frosted glass, with curved lines and amorphous shapes lightly revealing a sort of festival mask, brilliantly lit by Executive Artistic Director/ Lighting Designer Maria-Cristina Fusté; Michael in a fitted, white suit climbing on top of Cirtona’s cage, dreaming of his next course of action; and Citrona, kneeling and clinging, tall with arms outstretched.

Perhaps, we’re always building on a type of theater that will stand to criticism. Audiences who see workshops and performances on East 4th Street are accustomed to performance that pushes the bounds of perception. Extreme movement and visceral development of completely realized characters make for a unique theatrical experience. That understood, Fur might not be for those looking for lighter, more traditional styles. In fact, the constant screaming for new prey, gnawing at carcasses, and talk of sexual desire – all of which are central to the drama – might actually make one feel revolted. However, the Artistic Team has found the visual dimension to support the range of language revealed throughout the text.

 

Ashley-Marie Ortiz

 

Whether you leave astonished or reviled, Fur is definitely a spectacle to encounter. New York Theatre Workshop, known for producing the Off-Broadway hits, Rent and Hadestown, has given the space to Fur to be as ferocious and fabulous, as it is. Presenting this work in the downstairs black box on East 4th Street, while NYTW’s Usual Suspects hold court, upstairs in a rehearsal space/ meeting room upstairs, is actually an absolutely great choice.

Photos: Al Foote III

 

Fur is running at NYTW Next Door, Fourth Street Theatre, located at 83 East 4th Street in New York City, between Bowery and Second Avenue. It is running until November 24.

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