Madeleine Sierra, Fernando Córdova and Artús Chávez ponder war crimes in "Guerra: A Clown Play."

Madeleine Sierra, Fernando Córdova and Artús Chávez ponder war crimes in "Guerra: A Clown Play."

War Satire Kicks Off Tricklock Revolutions Festival

War has a long and rich history as a subject for satire and absurdity. That tradition continues with “Guerra: A Clown Play,” the delightful opening to the 13th Tricklock Revolutions International Theatre Festival in Albuquerque.

New Mexico is the beneficiary of the wanderings of this cutting edge company. Its members take their work on the road and also scout for other like-minded artists, then bring them back here for all of us to enjoy. Revolutions is one of my favorite things about living in Albuquerque. I can usually count on at least two or three stellar experiences from Revolutions each year and it has delivered some of my favorite theatre experiences.

“Guerra: A Clown Play,” is performed by La Piara from Mexico City in three languages, English, Spanish and French, although it is primarily in English. The company created it with writers and directors Seth Bockley and Devon de Mayo.

We hear “Guerra” before we see it. Marching feet in the wings soon bring two of the three main characters into view — the general and his officer (whose name keeps changing throughout the play) marching in exaggerated fashion around the stage, followed by a ridiculous flag raising. To the tune of “The Price is Right,” the two snag a “recruit” from the audience via a “loteria” and proceed to send her continuously into a useless firefight against an unseen enemy. She returns more injured each time, only to be sent back out until she finally comes back as a psychopath with a machete.

(I couldn’t help thinking about Robert Bales, arraigned this week for a horrible massacre in Afghanistan. He was on a fourth tour when that took place and his attorneys have argued he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.)

The play deftly balances such tension with hilarious moments. There is an impromptu rendition of “Alouette,” with the recruit (Madeleine Sierra) growing increasingly violent about plucking that hapless bird in the song. Fernando Córdova’s goofy expressions, enhanced by wide eyes that reflect the character’s limited intelligence with a boundless ambition for medals, keep us laughing even as he acts out war atrocities like a game of charades. Artús Chávez is the pompous general, possibly conducting a phone affair with his commandant. He begins as a leader suffering the idiocy of his subordinates, but quickly reveals himself as just one of the inmates overseeing the asylum.

Add in some “Carmina Burana” and a paper plane bombardment and I rarely stopped laughing, although I also squirmed occasionally in those moments when the audience was unsure whether or not to laugh. “Guerra” will play once more on Sunday, January 20, at 6 p.m. Santa Fe’s own Theater Grottesco will present its work “Storm” this weekend and the rest of the festival performances continue for the next two weeks. And of course there is the Reptilian Lounge, the late-night freewheeling event that takes place during each Saturday of the festival. Tricklock is offering a VIP option this year for the Lounge, which might be a good option to queuing up in the cold to snag a cheaper seat. A complete schedule is online.

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