Theater / Film

Young, theatrically different Miami company, presents world premiere of ‘Plague Play’

Written By Christine Dolen
August 22, 2023 at 9:44 AM

Ruki Etti and Lucy Lopez play the supportive women in the LakehouseRanch world premiere of Erin Proctor’s “Plague Play” running through Sunday, Aug. 27. (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

Though the world is constantly evolving, the lessons of the past can have deep relevance to life as we live it today – if only we pay heed.

Listen carefully to the words in Erin Proctor’s world premiere “Plague Play,” and you’ll discover in her take on the 10 Biblical plagues of Egypt more than just a stinging examination of violence begetting violence. It is also a resonant contemplation of envy, love, family, fear, longing, PTSD and the piling on of disasters.

“Plague Play” opens the second season – all world premieres – for LakehouseRanchDotPNG.  The company’s name may be a little unwieldy (it evolved from a road trip artistic director Brandon Urrutia and set designer Indy Sulliero once took), but its purpose is clearly defined and something scarce in South Florida theater:  producing absurdist and experimental works.

LakehouseRanch presents its plays in the intimate Artistic Vibes space at 8846 SW 129th Terrace, Suite B, Miami (located in an area full of warehouses and offices, Artistic Vibes is on the second floor of a two-story office building).  Proctor is one of the company’s three resident playwrights; the others are Riley Elton McCarthy, whose “rabbit” will premiere Nov. 10-19, and MacKenzie Raine, whose play “push.” premieres Jan. 12-21.

Jedi Weir’s Aaron gets a ribbing from Kyran Wright’s Moses and Ruki Etti’s Miriam in “Plague Play.” (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

Staged by Urrutia, a Florida International University grad like most others in the company, “Plague Play” is Proctor’s retelling/interpretation of Chapters 7 to 11 in the Biblical Book of Exodus.

The New York-based playwright uses plenty of contemporary language (including f-bombs), particularly in scenes involving the shifting relationship of brothers Moses (Kyran Wright) and Aaron (Jedhi Weir). But she also summons beautiful imagery in the affectionate exchanges between Moses’s wife Tzipporah (Lucy Marie Lopez) and Aaron’s twin Miriam (Ruki Etti), and the loving memories shared by Moses and Tzipporah.  There are laughs, too, as improbable as that may seem in a play about plagues.

For anyone interested in “Plague Play,” it is helpful to do an internet refresher on the story of Moses and Aaron trying to convince the Pharoah, King Ramses II, to free the enslaved Israelites.  Prophet Moses predicts the increasingly horrific plagues visited on the hard-hearted Pharoah and his people, while God works through the increasingly agitated Aaron to deliver them one by one. Having the basic storyline, characters and place names in mind enables a deeper dive into Proctor’s play.

Urrutia and company meet the script’s creative demands in simple ways.  Turning water into blood is accomplished by Leonardo Urbina’s lighting.  Little plastic frogs emerge from Sulliero’s set; ditto, the later plague of locusts. Irritating gnats are evoked by the buzzing cast.  As Aaron, Weir delivers a vividly disturbing speech about the wild beasts emerging from his body.  Plagues of boils, fiery hail, darkness and the death of first-born children follow.

Ruki Etti, Jedhi Weir, Kyran Wright and Lucy Lopez are plunged into darkness in the world premiere of Erin Proctor’s “Plague Play.” (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

Running about 80 minutes, “Plague Play” is captivating throughout, even though you realize (thanks to projected words in Hebrew and English) that you’re going through a kind of countdown of the plagues.  Urrutia’s staging in the small space and the performances of the four actors take the audience on a journey that, against all odds, remains suspenseful.

Wright plays Moses as a man conflicted by his love for his seven-years-older siblings Aaron and Miriam, and his loyalty to Pharoah, with whom he was raised as a brother.  His sibling rivalry scenes with Weir’s Aaron and his tender ones with Lopez’s Tzipporah are among the most effective in the play.

Weir conveys many of the most intense emotional moments in “Plague Play,” and at times you can feel his Aaron is on the verge of imploding.  His speech about the horrors of war as he refuses to celebrate victory over Pharoah is shattering.

The play’s women are different too.

Kyran Wright’s Moses and Lucy Lopez’s Tzipporah share a tender moment in Erin Proctor’s “Plague Play.” (Photo courtesy of Juan Gamero)

Lopez’s Tzipporah is a loving, worried stranger in a strange land who expresses her concerns but inevitably follows the lead of her beloved Moses.  Etti’s Miriam is more a salt of the earth type, a solid and sacrificing woman who is quietly vital to the other three.  Underlining their distinctiveness, costume (and sound) designer Maleeha Naseer clothes them in different styles and contrasting shades of orange and turquoise (the men wear simple red or yellow shirts, loose pants and sandals).

LakehouseRanch is a young company limited in budget (hence its two-weekend runs) but long on imagination.  The talent involved is obvious, and the kind of work Urrutia and his colleagues want to create can add to the rich mosaic of theater in South Florida.

WHAT: World premiere of “Plague Play” by Erin Proctor

WHERE: LakehouseRanchDotPNG production at Artistic Vibes, 8846 SW 129th Terrace, Suite B (second floor), Miami

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Aug. 27

COST:  $15 (discounts for students and artists)

INFORMATION: 786-427-4721 or lakehouseranchdotpng.com

ArtburstMiami.com is a nonprofit media source for the arts featuring fresh and original stories by writers dedicated to theater, dance, visual arts, film, music and more. Don’t miss a story at www.artburstmiami.com.

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