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Big New York role for Blake Ellis

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Wow. There are many professional actors in New York who go for entire careers without getting a rave review from the notoriously curmudgeonly Ben Brantley of the New York Times.

But that’s what Fresno’s Blake Ellis received for his role in the play “Tender Napalm” at the 59E59 Theaters in Manhattan. The two-person play by Philip Ridley — about two young lovers from the East End of London shipwrecked on a deserted island — sounds like a real mind-blower that Brantley says reaches back on the famous playwrights continuum to Strindberg and runs through Pinter and Albee. Brantley describes Ellis as “ferociously focused”:

Words of course are the primary weapons. But the actors hardly just stand around mouthing them in spotlights … Mr. Ellis and Ms. Workman, as in tune to each other’s physicality as a pair of acrobats, put in a decathlon’s worth of kinetic energy: writhing, body-slamming, dancing, sprinting and climbing all over each other.

They make the set pieces — especially the big climactic battle with the armies of monkeys — come to vivid, visible life. But just as important their raw, mobile faces register the common emotions of grief, loss, compassion, erotic passion, blame and hatred that these people inspire in each other as no one else ever could.

We last updated you about Ellis in January when he talked on the Beehive about his small role in the movie “Red Tails.” The former Fresno State student competed in 2005 at the Kennedy Center’s national acting competition.

Photo / New York Times