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Review: 'Pinkolandia' Exciting New Play at Red Bank's Two River Theater

Michael T. Mooney    Two River Theater
Michael T. Mooney Two River Theater

Here is the review by our guest contributor- Michael T. Mooney:

Two River Theater

How do you get to PINKOLANDIA? Start out in 1973 revolution-torn Chile, set the GPS of your imagination to Closet Land, and expect to be grounded somewhere in Reagan era Wisconsin. Or, in more practical terms, just go to Two River Theater Company in Red Bank to see the exciting new play by Andrea Thome. The term 'pinko' refers to those sympathetic with communism; pink being a lighter shade of Soviet red. If the term is unfamiliar, maybe the thought provoking and imaginative PINKOLANDIA isn't quite for you.

Based on playwright Thome's real-life experiences, the story concerns young sisters Beny and Gaby, who both have been relocated by their parents from Chile to the USA to escape political turmoil. The transition has left both girls retreating into their imaginations (Closet Land) for escape: Beny into a world where's she's a beret-sporting diamond smuggler fleeing the Nazis. Gaby, the younger sister, finds solace in an icy landscape with a talking polar bear trying to escape the melting of the polar ice caps. Their real lives are consumed by their beaten-down parents, a visiting Uncle, and Beny's inability to fit in at school.

The play presents plenty of ideas - both real and symbolic - including references to THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, THE WIZARD OF OZ and THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. But Thome is definitely mapping adult territory here - preferably adults with some political and cultural savvy. Although the production features lots of untranslated Spanish, it remains terrifically visual, with a vibrant pop-up book set aided by brilliantly designed projections and a matching sound-scape.

Beny and Gaby are played by adult actors, a concept that worked somewhat better in Two River's 2012 production of Alan Ayckbourn's MY WONDERFUL DAY than it does here. But not because the performers aren't terrific – they are. Ultimately, however, the heightened tone and pace of PINKOLANDIA only rarely slows down for any real connection between the characters – and most of that is due to the skills of the fine cast. Maria Halan (Beny) and Annie Henk (Mom) are real standouts in a talented company of six that excels in creating a variety of vivid characters.

A trip to PINKOLANDIA is not without its challenges, but it is certainly a journey well worth taking.

Reviewed by Michael T. Mooney Feb. 28, 2014

(Our guest reviewer Michael T. Mooney has devoted his life to the performing arts, having been involved as performer, writer, director, and administrator. Visit:

Bob & Joan Rechnitz Theater, Two River Theater, Red Bank, New Jersey

Two River Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, New Jersey.

Pinkolandia, a new play written by Andrea Thome and directed by Jose Zayas.

The cast of Pinkolandia includes Varín Ayala (Dad/Kid 3), David Crommett (Tio Ignacio/Polar Bear/Mr. Pittman/Old Man), Maria Helan (Beny), Annie Henk (Mom/Kid 2), Andrea Morales(Gaby), and Gabriel Sloyer (Pepe/Kid 1/Nazi).

The creative team includes scenic designer Raul Abrego; costume designer Ásta Bennie Hostetter; lighting designer Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew; sound designer Jane Shaw; and projection designers Alex Koch, Kate Freer & Dave Tennent. The casting is by Zoe E. Rotter and the stage manager is Alison Hassman.

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