Move Over Bull, It's The Dog’s Time To Shine in TOROS — Review
It’s been a busy summer of theatre here in New York from major London transfers to new classic comedies to pop princesses taking over Broadway, but the one work that continues to linger in my mind is located uptown at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre, by way of Second Stage. Enter the storied Upper West Side theatre and be transported to a simple garage in Madrid for Toros by Danny Tejera.
It's here where we meet a trio of 20-somethings pondering life, getting drunk, and figuring out just how to be the latest DJ craze at Ultra. In the basement of Juan’s (Juan Castano) house, Toro (Abubakr Ali) and Andrea (b), come over night after night to discuss the realities of life for modern wealthy post-gradautes living in Spain. Their hopes, desires, and wants all differ between the three but this trio are more alike than not. All growing uptogether at an elite international school, the three converse and debate on sex, drugs, and the latest club they hate to frequent. After returning from spending time in New York, Toro is reaclimating to homelife in Europe while a love-triangle starts to form before our eyes. An interesting climax that I won’t spoil takes us in a new direction in this quant new work. Second Stage Theatre Uptown is devoted to developing a new generation of artists and giving them a platform during the summer season.
A scriptnote reads “these characters are generally good at hiding what they’re feeling”, and Tejera has done a wonderful job at crafting a realistic portrayal of 20-year-olds today, the best case I have seen on stage in quite some time. The diagloue doesn’t feel forced and the themes he is able to weave into this 90 minute narrative speak to young millennials today. Albeit set in the “late 2010s. Post Trump/Pre Covid”, Tejera has unlocked a fascinating slice of life work that audiences can certainly sink their teeth into. Ali, b, and Castano have formed an incredible bond between the three in this supremely acted production.
And then we simply must talk about Frank Wood. Playing a dying female golden retriever, Wood steals the entire play with his impressively bizarre canine impression that is so spot-on it's certain to be one of this year's most brilliantly bewildering performances, and it's only August.
It’s all brought together by director Gaye Taylor Upchurch who is able to weave the narrative with focused direction that helps keep the flow steadily moving along on track just as Juan’s DJ beats pump throughout the garage. The mixture of naturalism thanks to an excellent set by Arnulfo Maldonado versus high theatricality: sex by interpretive dance, a car made up of old boxes, a Tony winner playing a dying pet is what makes Toros such an intriguing new work. Some development on the relationships can tidy up some plot points, but Tejera is very much starting to make a name for himself as a new voice in the American theatre. I look forward to what comes next.
Toros is now in performance at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit here.