Director and performance creator Doniel Soto created truly special work with his collaborators at Abandon Productions.
First with sweat, hard work and much of their own money, they transformed a junked-up warehouse space into a habitable performance venue now known as The Space.
At the same time, Soto trained his actors in the demanding style of physical theater that he favors. Finally, they created exciting original productions using their movement and vocal skills.
Though for several reasons, Abandon hasn’t produced work in more than two years, Soto and the company are still name-checked (whether or not the allusion applies) as the standard-bearers for a type of nontraditional theater that is based in movement and sound.
Recently, Soto has surfaced with a production as electric as anything I’ve ever seen of his. It’s called “Maxbeth,” and it’s Soto’s take on Shakespeare’s Scottish play.
I’ve been moved at the finale of several productions that I’ve seen over the last few months. At “Maxbeth,” I was nearly overcome after the first 10 minutes. It was that powerful and that beautiful. By the way, it was at a high school, Mira Loma, with high school actors. And it was brilliant.
Soto doesn’t try to do stuff that is consciously edgy or arty. He makes work that has artistry in it. Soto is the kind artist who can’t walk a straight line. Anybody could do that. He takes you off the deep end.
There were human trees, surging flesh amoebas, and some of the most electrifying battle scenes you’ll ever see, with kids flying off the second level of the two-part set into the arms of comrades below - the kind of stuff that makes you gasp and laugh at the sheer audacity, ingenuity and artistry of it. Of course, it takes tremendous dedication and commitment from the actors because Soto doesn’t put them in front of audiences until they’ve trained extensively in his methods and practices. This is Shakespeare - broken down, reassembled, looped, magnified and uncovered.
The audience of the full 120-seat Black Box theater was at least half teenagers who were as enthralled as I was. Though the production was scheduled to close last weekend, there has been such a strong response that shows were added for this weekend - and there may be some seats. Call (916) 331-9663 for information.