Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Cortez Method


I went to the World Premiere of The Cortez Method written by Rob Keefe and Directed by Mark Routhier at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater (812 East Rollins Street Orlando FL). Being in the small Mandell Theater, I was surprised at how intricate and ornate the set by scenic designer, Robbin Watts was.

The play takes place in a rural home in the Kentucky woods. Based on the set, you can tell that there have been recent renovations like new marble counter tops and flooring Bill, played by Paul Bernardo arrives home only to be surprised by his brother Walter, played by Riley Clermont. After some joking and wrestling it becomes clear that Walter is a no good brother who wants a handout. Some event from the brothers pasts makes Walter feel he is owed. Paul's pregnant wife, Sarah, played by Suzanne O'Donnell is asleep off stage and Walters loud booming voice wakes her up and she pounds on the wall. Walter is not welcome in their home.

This is a dysfunctional family with a capitol D. Bill is constantly trying to appease his wife and brother. He seems whipped and tired. He also resents that everything has been poured into the opulent home furnishings like a five burner range and a stove whose name he cant pronounce. The fridge is battered and old, the one appliance from a past life. There are dark criminal currents beneath the country bliss. The play is a dark comedy in which the past and present collide. Walter claims he is like Cortez who burned his ship when invading the Aztec Empire to prove there was no retreat. It was all or nothing. A complete and total commitment. Walter had the same commitment to get a "loan" from his brother of about $30,000 to start a gate welding business. All of Bill's money however was tied up in his home.

The second act gets violent as no one gets what they want. The most astonishing character was Odette, played by Melanie Whipple. She was Walters girl who would set him straight. She was missing teeth, was disheveled and looked stoned or ill.  When Walter grabs her, she defends herself. Bill's wife has a warped idea of how they need to protect their home and Bill does everything he is asked to do. He is like a small dog on a leash who puts up some resistance but always relents with a tug. I was confused by the confrontation between the couple. There was resentment and hate and yet, in the heat of the argument, they kissed. Bill seems changed by what had transpired. He rips the shades off the windows and the room blazed light. Just what changed remained unclear. I suspect he would continue to do as he was told. He would never be free from his past.

This play marks a renewed commitment by the 25 year old Orlando Shakespeare Theater to present original plays.The play is a very adult story of family dysfunction, infidelity, and substance abuse. It is best suited for adult audiences. Mark Your Calendar! The play runs through September 22nd. Tickets are about $25.

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