Cortez is an engaging little story by Milkwood Theater told in a very physical manner, playing as part of the New York Fringe.
The story centres on Mike (played by an engaging David Riley), a marine biologist studying the tomatian, a species he claims is actively pursuing its own extinction. Riley portrays Mike with an endearing bumbling manner that deteriorates into unconscious undermining of his relationship.
With Mike on his expedition into the Sea of Cortez is his girlfriend Heather, an enthusiastic humanist who gradually wearies of his pessimism, leading to the breakdown of their relationship. The air of timidity Heather (played by Heather Holmes) begins with is supplanted by a more relatable frustration over the course of events, and the relationship demonstrates some recognisable features.
Two crew members function something like a chorus to the pair, and their physicality punctuates the tension developing between the couple. The story is told quite cleverly as the action moves between the US, the Gulf of California, and La Paz, and allows for a particularly energetic story about the complexity of romantic relationships in a working context.
In all, this is an interesting play that doesn’t quite manage to get across the line of engagement. The relationship between Mike and Heather needs further development to become fully engaging, and the physicality is often too abstract to be of any value. But the bones of an interesting piece are here.