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An existential cat, an angry parrot, a lonely platypus, a smart but hungry mouse, a confused bat, a spiritual cow, a not deeply reflective groundhog, a philosophical chipmunk with a shovel, an outraged baboon in a monkey suit and a turkey with a musical dream.
Those are just some of the characters in Black Box Theatre’s outdoor production of “Animal Tales” by Don Nigro that marks the return of live theatre to Las Cruces.
I loved everything about this show. All of the scripts for these 10 short plays are well written, with some pretty deep-thinking critters that make you laugh as they offer some thoughtful insights into life’s unanswered questions, like, Why DO cats chase string?
I also loved that each play featured its own piece of art (from thetheatregallery lobby gallery inside the theatre), brought onstage by the actors. Each also had unique costumes that sometimes included T-shirts with their character animals on them or, in the case of Autumn Gieb’s performance as a bat, goggles that added the perfect touch to her fabulous performance.
I was also extremely taken with the live piano performance of Barbara Toth. It was so lovely to come in the back gate of the Black Box Theatre courtyard (on Main Street) and be greeted with her wonderful playing. She also provided the entry and exit music for each short play that was perfect.
Kudos also to Peter Herman for a sound system that allowed the audience to hear every word from the actors, despite the distance between the actors and the audience mandated by state public health orders, the occasional breeze and the ambient noise from busy Main Street. (In her curtain speech before the show, director Ceil Herman said the block will be closed off for next week’s performances, so the outside noise won’t be an issue. Frankly, once I got into the show, it wasn’t much of a distraction anyway.)
Mostly, the success of this show is due to the actors. One and all, they were terrific. Gold stars all around to Nancy Cline Tafoya, Genno Tafoya, Autumn Gieb, Debbie Jo Felix, Joshua Taulbee, Bekah Taulbee and Ed Montes.
I would give an extra gold star to Bekah Taulbee. As far as I know, “Animal Tales” marks her onstage debut as an actor, after working backstage and in the booth for countless shows at Black Box Theatre and Las Cruces Community Theatre. She brings the same talent and skill in front of the curtain she has had behind it for so long. She was a wonderful chipmunk and an especially terrific turkey named Penny, who dreams of finding the saxophone tree and playing a saxophone with her feet.
Somehow, you believe she just might pull it off.
“Animal Tales” runs about 70 minutes without an intermission. Make your reservations and go see it.
I would have a hard time picking my favorite of the 10 short plays; I genuinely enjoyed them all and appreciated their wide range of subjects.
Sold out show adds two performances
And, because the four performances of “Animal Tales” that were originally scheduled have already sold out, Black Box Theatre has added two additional shows. Seating is limited to 25 patrons at each performance.
Here is the schedule of remaining performances:
Tickets are $15 regular admission and $12 students and seniors over age 65.
For reservations, which are strongly recommended, visit www.no-strings.org.