Baptism by rum By the Waters of Babylon opens Friday

By on April 29, 2014
Kent Randell as Arturo and Nicole Madison playing Catherine in Babylon’s dress rehearsal. Photo: Mary Grossman

Kent Randell as Arturo and Nicole Madison playing Catherine in Babylon’s dress rehearsal. Photo: Mary Grossman

JACKSON, WYO – Steam is rising in Catherine’s overgrown Texas garden. She has hired a hunky gardener named Arturo to clean up the mess left in the wake of her husband’s death. As the garden debris disappears, the two characters open up to one another, fueled by homemade mojitos.

For the production of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan’s By the Waters of Babylon, Off Square Theatre welcomes a guest director and actor for the two-person play. Directed by Kate Gleason, Babylon opens Friday with Nicole Madison playing Catherine and Denver-based actor Kent Randell as Arturo.

Attendees will be captivated by the passionate, accomplished performances of Randell and Madison. As the attraction heats up between white, middle-class Catherine and Cuban refugee Arturo, the actors reveal aspects – and secrets – of their characters in a raw, halting way that feel true to life.

First produced in 2005, Schenkkan’s play received mixed reviews at other venues. The script is uneven and veers toward the melodramatic, but it does provide the actors wonderful moments. “The most awful things sound better in a foreign language,” Catherine comments when Arturo tells her the Spanish word for a shunned woman. The play opens with Catherine talking nonstop, her loneliness spilling over like the drink in her hand.

After getting his hands dirty and a few mojitos in him, Arturo waxes poetic about music and the relationship between notes. The double meanings of his insights are not lost on us. “The relationship lives in time. The length of time each note sings. The time between the notes. This is rhythm,” says Arturo.

Madison’s Catherine is pitch perfect, both naive and world weary. At first reticent and hidden, Randell’s Arturo becomes soulful and sexy. The energy between the two characters builds and blossoms, just like the rhythm of a salsa dance. Through their connection, the characters find redemption, however temporary.

“My hope is that each audience member will leave the theater with a stronger understanding of the hope that is possible when we truly trust and rely on each other,” said Natalia Duncan, Off Square artistic director.

A reception with the guest artists will follow the opening night performance.

By the Waters of Babylon, 7:30 p.m. May 2, 3, 8, 9, & 10, Black Box Theater, Center for the Arts. Tickets $15, $25, 307-733-4900.

About Meg Daly

Meg Daly is a freelance writer and arts instigator. She grew up in Jackson in the 1970s and 80s, when there were fewer fences, but less culture. Follow Meg on Twitter @MegDaly1

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