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From L-R: Carlos Ibarra, Michael Markham, Chris Gardner and Christopher M. Ramirez in LIVING & BREATHING. Photo by T Charles Erickson.

Broadway World: LIVING & BREATHING at Two River Theater-An Outstanding World Premiere Depicting Pivotal Social Issues

by Marina Kennedy

“It’s the truest form of political art I could find.” by Todd in Living & Breathing

Living & Breathing, an innovative play, is making its world premiere at Two River Theater (TRT) through February 26. Smartly crafted by Mando Alvarado and superbly directed by Rebecca Martinez, it received a reading at TRT’s Crossing Borders Festival in 2019. This riveting, insightful show features an excellent cast. Gather your group and see it while you can.

Todd, a businessman of Irish descent, purchases and displays an expensive art piece of a living Latino man, Ruben, who is paid to pose as a statue dressed as various stereotypes. Believing that this artistic concept demonstrates a keen social awareness, Tom invites two of his long time friends to view it. But the men’s reactions are unexpected as Michael, a Mexican American, finds it offensive on every level while Jerome, an African American sees some redeeming qualities in the idea of a living statue. When the three friends engage in a lively debate about the art, honest yet painful revelations surface about race, relationships, and social status. It’s questionable if their friendship can survive starkly different points of view.

Alvarado has written a distinctive play and the four actors excel at depicting their roles. The company includes Michael Markham as Todd, Christopher M. Ramirez as Michael, Chris Gardner as Jeremy and Carlos Ibarra as Ruben.

Scenes are riveting and provocative as the characters discuss their feelings about the art and their friendships. Notable moments include Michael’s shock when he first sees Ruben as the statue; Todd talking about the benefit of the living statue concept; Jerome telling Michael that he’d like to have a child; Todd talking about his junior high crush on a classmate; Todd and Jerome chiding Michael about his past romances; Jerome’s shock over the payment for the living statue; and Ruben’s costume changes.

The design team has done a top job of bringing Living & Breathing to the Red Bank Stage. They include scenic design by Raul Abrego; costume design by Christopher Vergara; assistant costume design by Matthew Eggers; lighting design by Cat Tate Starmer; associate sound design by Ben Scheff; assistant lighting design by Sarah Woods: and fight direction is by UnkleDave’s Fight-House. The Sound Designer and Composer is Megumi Katayam; associate sound design by Ben Scheff; the Production Stage Manager is Genevieve Ortiz; and Assistant Stage Manager is Gracie Carleton. The ED&I Facilitator is Artists Heal, Noelle Diane Johnson.

Audiences for Living & Breathing will find the show to be entertaining while its controversial discourse is edifying and important. We applaud Two River Theater’s Artistic Director, Justin Waldman and his team for continuing to bring stories that showcase equity, diversity, and inclusion to the stage.

Living & Breathing is being performed in Two River Theater’s Marion Huber Theater located at 21 Bridge Street, Red Bank, NJ 07701. The show runs for 90 minutes with no intermission. For ticketing and more information, please visit call 732.345.1400.

Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson