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Tricklock’s ‘The Keep’ offers startling originality

 

The Tricklock Company is a seminal Albuquerque theater institution, and anyone who professes to love theater but has not yet experienced a Tricklock show needs to get moving. Trickock does original work, often devised by the ensemble under the direction of one its members. If you are interested in theater of startling originality, then you need to see their latest production, “The Keep.”

Conceived and directed by Claudia Heu, “The Keep” is an audience interactive, on-site production, meaning that to see the show you must go to the Tricklock performance space but once there you are escorted to an undisclosed location, and you will be an integral part of the experience, helping to determine the course the show takes on that particular evening.

The audience is split into three groups of seven, each sharing a table, complete with bread and wine. Each audience member is then provided with dossiers of the eight inmates of “The Keep.” These troubled souls have withdrawn from a harsh and unforgiving world, and throughout the evening you will slowly get to know who they are and why they are there, not only through reading their dossiers, but more importantly through private one-on-one interaction in their rooms. Therefore the show is largely improvised, since you can ask questions and there is no telling what direction the tête-à-tête will take. At the end of the evening you will get to vote for who you think is most equipped to re-enter the world outside.

But here is the catch. You will only have a chance to talk privately with three of the eight inmates, so your knowledge will be disproportionate. Your perception of the other five will come through their dossiers, through a final statement that each inmate is allowed to make at the end (they are given sometimes two minutes, sometimes three, and are sometimes brusquely cut off almost immediately), and through a bizarre tour through the space, observing each individual in his or her room. This is very revealing as each room is idiosyncratically designed by its occupant, and clearly reflects each individual psyche. This voyeuristic act reminded me of Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist,” as these pariahs are put on display for the “normal” to gawk at and judge.

Ultimately we are really the ones under judgment, for who are we to judge the outcasts of society with our scant and uneven information? Their dossiers have even been redacted, rude black lines indicating that there are some things we are not meant to know. In fact, at one point my name was called over a loud speaker (we were asked to show our IDs when we first entered the theater, before moving to the on-site location). I was instructed to go to the end of the hall and knock on a wooden door, where I encountered Atlas Emerson, apparently the warden of the institution. Now it was my turn to be interrogated by an authority figure.

All the actors do a fine job, but I was particularly struck by Diana Delgado, who played a young woman named Sarah, the last inmate I had a chance to observe and talk to. Her pain and disorientation was palpable and heart rending, and ultimately the only verdict I could deliver was one of compassion, and perhaps that is the point.

Only 21 persons can see the show on any given night, and some shows are already sold-out. Make your reservation now. Playing through Oct. 10. Go to www.tricklock.com/the-keep/ or call 505-414-3738 for reservations.

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