Highlight: Beautiful Things

Courtesy of Nimbus Theatre

Nimbus Theatre weighs in with the second Twin Cities production this fall (the first was 15 Head's Vacationland!) to avail itself of playwright Charles Mee's "The (Re)Making Project," in which he has made the texts of his plays available online. Theater companies can perform Mee's work for free, provided they chop the scripts up and make them their own. The idea must be a boon for small companies looking to stage experimental drama but lacking the funds for a script of their choosing. Nimbus has warped and reshaped Investigation of a Murder in El Salvador (first performed in L.A. in 1984 under the direction of CTC director Peter C. Brosius), and extracted from it an engaging abstract work that gains strength as it goes. The action begins with a group of dissolute rich folks chatting in some tropical hideaway while oppressed throngs gather ominously at the gates. Lady Aitken (Muriel Bonertz, haughty and heartless) leads an elucidation of the day's trends (terrorism? "in." working? "out.") while Charles Gallejas (David Nuñez) glowers and telegraphs strong disapproval. Nuñez does a nice job propelling things; his character is a former member of the global dispossessed who has risen to wealth and power in his home country. Gallejas is repulsed by the wealthy characters who have joined him at his stronghold, and for a surprising reason--the decadent loosening of their will to power, as well as their losing sight of the capacity of ruthlessness to produce great art and extraordinary experience. Robert Larsen's Howard, Gallejas's onetime patron, is inscrutably subversive throughout. Howard is an exhausted and disillusioned plutocrat who remembers with stunned bitterness the days when he looked out on the world and literally wished to own it all. Nuñez and Larsen unfold a relationship of compelling complexity with an absolutely chilling note provided by Nuñez's adamantine steeliness. While many experimental productions start with a premise and then riff on it, Nimbus has worked up a treat: a piece that starts off oblique and unknowable, then sacrifices none of its scruples in working toward meaning in its own idiosyncratic fashion.

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