Strength in Ensemble – ‘Peninsula’

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By Marcina Zaccaria
 
‘Peninsula’, a bold, new theatrical production, is written Nathan Wright and presented by In Absentia Productions at the New York International Fringe Festival.  It tells the story of Tiago (Josue Gutierrez Guerra), a young man who escaped the poverty-stricken slums of Rio de Janeiro and became a migrant worker in a seemingly peaceful summer town in North Michigan’s wine country.  With a movie star smile, Tiago, recalls the wild nights of Rio de Janeiro.  Vivid text jumps back and forth in time to reveal his failing relationships.  As he searches for identity, we follow his journey that unfolds in images of orange, white, and green.
Developed in workshops conducted by Director Nadia Foskolou, the cast explores moments of happiness, jealousy, lust.  In dynamic movement sequences, Foskolou creates tension and drama.  Actors collide in Capoeira inspired moves.  Onstage and off, the ensemble arrives like gunshots through the storm, driven less by aesthetics and more with moment to moment articulation.  There is a deep muscularity to their work, and moments of surprise fill the empty space.
As the performers reincorporate image with memory, we see collages of Tiago’s past and present affairs.  Tommy, played by the compelling Kellan Peavy, tells a winding story of his tryst with Tiago.  Obsessed with work, Lily, played by Vanessa Bartlett, re-appears throughout the play.  She is a sounding board to Tiago’s endless wandering and provides a foil to Tiago’s ongoing crisis.  As idyllic love gives way to tragic drama, we consider what empathy is.
Perhaps the play would have been more satisfying if the threads of each story line had been differently intertwined.  I was sometimes dissatisfied that the repetition of theme did not lead somewhere new.  I also wanted more from the Lighting Design by Drew Florida.  While his design was spare and clear, I was hoping that light, in addition to movement, could create more of a revelation.  It is a fine, well-produced show, however, and my guess is, it will have a life after the NY International Fringe Festival.
‘Peninsula’ is playing at the Robert Moss Theater at 440 Studios.  It is running until Thursday, August 22nd, and tickets can be purchased by calling 866-468-7619 or by visiting FringeNYC.org.
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